The Birmingham Post isn’t always able to post online everything that I’ve written for its print edition, so – after a suitable time lag (you should really go out and buy the paper!) – I’ll be posting my recent reviews here. As per the print edition, they’re all fairly concise – just 250 words. This is of a performance at Birmingham Conservatoire on 1 December 2015.
The ideal duo partnership is more than the sum of its parts. The two musical personalities don’t merge, exactly, but balance, complement and inspire each other to create a performance that enshrines the qualities of both artists – and still sounds like it sings with one voice.
That’s exactly what we got from Tasmin Little and Piers Lane in César Franck’s Violin Sonata, the climax of this lunchtime recital at Birmingham Conservatoire. It’s too simple to say that Lane’s piano represented the dark and Little’s violin the light side of Franck’s masterpiece. Both shared the same ability to charge a repeated sequence of notes with mounting emotional intensity; both understood instinctively when to make a phrase growl or gleam.
But even at its most tranquil, an undercurrent of passion drove the whole performance. Franck’s runaway accelerandos and torrential outbursts of emotion have rarely sounded more natural, or more necessary. Earlier, the pair had dispatched Brahms’s FAE Scherzo in a single symphonic sweep, and made a poetic case for Szymanowski’s neglected D minor sonata, Lane colouring his staccato chords to emulate the texture of Little’s pizzicato, and Little spinning delicate golden tracery in the skies above.
And as an encore, they pulled out an exquisite, recently rediscovered miniature by William Lloyd Webber – father of the Conservatoire’s new principal. It was enough to make you forget that you were in the grotty old Adrian Boult Hall. With artists of this quality and a sizeable and enthusiastic audience, there was no better demonstration of the promising new spirit that seems to be blowing through the Conservatoire.