Callum Smart and Gordon Back blew us away - it was a delightful and joyful evening with splendid music performed by two outstanding musicians. Callum Smart, at the tender age of 15 (albeit almost 16), is already a confident and composed violist. He is obviously gifted and one to whom the violin comes naturally. Gordon Back accompanied him expertly, complementing and leading the soloist when necessary. His deep understanding of the pieces and his generous approach must have been a big support to Callum. Their combined effort created music that was like a strong magnet, captivating our attention throughout the evening.
The evening started with Grieg's Sonata in G major. It has a different air and feeling to it from any other pieces of today's programme, as it is built on Norwegian folk melodies and rhythms. I wonder why it is rarely performed in concerts. The beautiful melodies and harmonies were presented excellently by the performers. I think Callum's vibrato was amazing, especially in the tranquil second movement. The light hearted third movement, with its strong Norwegian folk music feel, was my choice; it was such a contrast from the previous movement. This Grieg Sonata is definitely added as one of my favourites now – the more I listen to it the more I addicted I get.
The second piece was Avec Ã©lan, a piece composed for Callum by Swiss composer Jean-Luc Darbellay. It means "with passion" and lasts just three minutes. The rather simple opening, with one note followed by another, made us wonder how the music would develop. Callum played it with passion, as the title suggested.
Chausson"s Poeme was mysterious, thrilling and turbulent. The repetitive main theme by the violin and piano was magical with amazing trills continued through to the end. Beautiful music, beautifully played, what else can I say?
After the interval, we were ready for Brahms and Wieniawski. I was secretly delighted to see Brahms Sonata No. 3 in the programme; I love all Brahms sonatas, but this dark, intense and painful Sonata definitely has dramatic development which appeals to everyone. I am sure I was not the only one who came to the recital full of curiosity as to how young Callum would play it. I absolutely loved how the first subject opened, in a quietly agitated mood. Then Gordon"s piano introduced a romantic and expressive second subject - fabulous. The second movement was gentle and lyrical, and again Callum showed off his beautiful vibrato. I knew the third movement was scherzo-like, but did not know it was described as a dance 'œon tiptoe through the twilight against a shadowy background' until I read the programme note. It is actually true, a very accurate statement! The finale was passionate, dynamic and firing. It always makes me imagine someone going through painful agitation and emotional storm.
I cannot describe how impressive Wieniawski was'¦.. When he wrote this piece, variations were very popular and were composed with the emphasis on technical difficulty and virtuoso effects. Wieniawski was considered a violinist of genius during his life time and Gordon said this piece was as difficult as and in the repertoire for a violinist. I was pleased to hear that as I could not imagine anything more challenging than this! It showed off Callum"s technical and artistic strengths. He was very expressive, showing uniqueness and character for each variation. It was singing, dancing and vibrating. I wouldn"t have minded if they repeated it twice!
Two encores '“ Gershwin"s Porgy and Bess, and Gluck"s Melody. With this our evening ended, although I am sure it will be remembered by all who attended. Callum has maturity beyond his age combined with freshness and youthfulness. This is definitely his strong weapon! I wish him the best for his upcoming performance in Switzerland.