Audiences love a chamber music experience like this; one in which we receive a true sense of musical integration and harmony, created and executed by two individual instruments right there and then, in front of our eyes. That is what moves peoples’ hearts. This recital by violinist Callum Smart and pianist Richard Uttley provided exactly that.
Beethoven’s rollicking opening in the first movement was pleasantly rapid, but was never rushed; it had a playful kick and lightness which saw both instruments work hand-in-hand. The second movement Minuet was a pure beauty; Callum excelled in pouring out simple, but most glorious melodies, while Richard’s flow serenaded gracefully, and together they sang.
If it was a youthful freshness that the duo showed with the Beethoven, it was a thoughtful maturity with Brahms’ Violin Sonata No 2. Always one of my favourite violin sonatas (and I have many), I cannot describe how much I adore the piano part of the first movement; full of typical Brahms’ gorgeousness and lyricism. Richard expressed it with an intensified warmness, outpouring emotions but with subtlety, and blended it with Callum’s articulate playing. Callum’s approach maximised the beauty of this lyrical Sonata, playing with simplicity and exquisite sweetness, which at times evoked a nostalgic feeling, particularly in the second movement – in my head I imagined as if it was coming from a vinyl recording.
Acute intonation and virtuoso skill are Callum’s strengths, and he certainly showed these off in Schubert’s Fantasy in C, which became a pinnacle of the evening’s programme. The duo’s rapport was remarkable; much needed, of course, to perform this extremely complex piece! As much as it was technically challenging, the duo exceeded beyond that to provide much musical pleasure (clearly Schubertian never forgetting Romanticism and beautiful singing features) and full enjoyment for the audience.
Their final piece was Ginastera’s Pampeana, with which the scenery leaped from the early 1800s Austria to a more recent Argentine prairie. All of a sudden, the music opened up to nature; to a completely different sound-making. The audience loved this abrupt change, and with the burst of dramatic energy, the evening came to close with a wonderful vibe.