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Brighton Fringe 2018

Of Heart and Homeland

Sophia Bartlette

Genre: Music

Venue: Brighton Unitarian Church


Low Down

A programme of richly varied music on a nationalistic theme performed on the violin with gusto and great skill by Sophia Bartlette accompanied by Anna Kolesnik-Neal. Classical masterpieces, rousing melodies, folk traditions and technical challenges abound.


‘Of Heart and Homeland’, a violin concert given by Sophie Bartlette accompanied by Anna Kolesnik-Neal on the piano, is billed as an “exploration of the nationalist musical movement at the beginning of the 19th Century, where composers began to want to define their homelands through music”. Fusing a programme of changing themes and traditions, cultures and form, this evening recital was wide ranging, from the grand Russian Romantic to folk traditions, from the modernism of Manuel de Falla to the classical of Dvorak, Debussy and Rachmaninov. Soloist Sophia admits that she is simply playing music that she likes to play, and we are so much the better for an eclectic selection of works that are not just a delight to see performed but are also technically challenging.

Sophia lives and works locally, teaching at Roedean and Brighton College as well as regularly giving recitals at music venues, festivals, numerous charitable fundraising events in the UK and abroad. Anna Kolenisnik-Neal, Brighton College’s Musician in Residence, who was faultless as she was delicate, sensitive and self-effacing in support of such a charismatic and accomplished soloist, also provided excellence in accompaniment. It is great to see busy teachers inspiring young musicians not just through facilitating others but stepping forward and walking the walk as well. And they do so brilliantly.

A programme where the more familiar is mixed with the rare, where we are soothed by a sweeping melody one moment and then surprised by the violin being strummed pizzicato the next, keeps us on our toes as an audience as much as it does for the violinist. The amazing dexterity on display through de Falla’s ‘Suite Populaire Espagnole’ and Aaron Copeland’s ‘Ukelele Serenade’ particularly resonated with the audience but the romanticism of Rachmaninov’s ‘Voclaise’ sets up the finale of Bedrich Smetana’s two movement thematic work ‘From My Homeland’. Specifically composed for violin and piano, original melodies, national in character, rousing and atmospheric, shift between major and minor, a spirit of yearning and even mourning dashed by outbursts of dramatic leaps for the violin. This last piece, finishing in bright, spirited style, reflected not just the composer but also the player, being interpreted physically as much as musically, embodying the movement within the music. Sophia clearly embraces a challenge and enjoys a universal mix of traditions. I wish my violin teacher had been as open minded – I might not have run away from the instrument at 15.

Sophia runs her own music courses for children of all ages, ‘Music is Fun’. Her engagement and enjoyment is infectious and it is great to see that music can be fun for adults too. This was a one night only opportunity, but should Sophia and Anna step forward again in the near future, this will be a ‘must see’, not just for those who love a classical concert, for those who are inspired and lifted by inspirational music performed with great seinsitivity, skill and genuine glee…