Brighton Year-Round 2020
Peter Sulski and Ariana Falk give a violin and cello recital of Mozart’s Duo in B flat K424 (arranged from the Violin and Viola original), three of Bach’s two-part Inventions 17, 14, 15 from The Art of Fugue, Martinu’s Violin and Cello Duo No. 2 H. 371, and Mark O’Connor’s Encore.
Fresh from one of their regular concerts in Palestine, Peter Sulski and Cellist Ariana Falk offer the same programme they performed yesterday thousands of miles to the east.
Sulski concerts – with several regular partners – are an event. Renowned as a violist it’s forgotten in Brighton that Sulski’s equally known as a violinist. He’s playing one here to render a contrast between the two instruments.
Frit there’s a transposition: Mozart’s B flat major Duo for Violin and Viola No. 2 K424. Mozart wrote these two pieces to complete a set of six for the time-pressed Michael Haydn, younger brother of the even more famous Joseph (Michael’s famous again now). Its three movements start with an Adagio in common time, which expose some exploratory harmonies between the two instruments even more in this combination. It soon evolves from this rather baroque opening, to a more classical allegro-style zip and exposition
The Andante cantabile exposes something else, though in e flat, an intensely sweet singing in a 6/8 tread – as you’d expect with cantabile – fading in and out. The B flat was less exploratory than its predecessor, the lower part more filling in harmonies to conform t Haydn’s other four, since Mozart was ghost-writing for his friend.
The Andante grazioso, finale’s a set of variations with a coda. With no overall time signature it darts and flurries through decorations on an attractive insouciant theme, the kind you see in the quartets though development here is more straitened. Sulski has a way of projecting grace with asperity so you’re not lulled, and Falk digs into her instrument with attention to classical sonorities, which never become overtly expressive for lower instruments. The coda feels like a homecoming. A wonderful piece memorably played adding a ne dimension to our understanding.
Next Bach’s Art of Fugue has been rendered in anything from organ through quartets to full orchestra as well as piano. Bach simply didn’t feel it needed specifying. It was after all an intellectual exercise but rendered as musical: and eminently to be played in bits. It’s thought he didn’t finish the six-part finale as a challenge to students, though happily composer-musicologist Donald Tovey did complete it and composer Robert Simpson rendered the whole Art into string quartet form (recorded by the Delmé on Hyperion). That’s perhaps the way to hear it. Though Brighton-based Joanna MacGregor plays it memorably on the piano.
Here we’re given logically three two-part inventions plucked rom it, 17, 14, and 15. The crunchy sonorities and the ways these two approach the two-part structure mean we start with almost ugly sounds before they resolve in a nimbus of contrapuntalism so intricate and worked-through it throws up its own light. The last No. 15 is speedier than its predecessors and a lively way to end. It’s not a combination you’ll often hear, but when do we hear The Art of Fugue, or even excerpts as here?
Karel Ancerl the great Czech conductor who survived Auschwitz seems to have commissioned Bohuslav Martinu to compose one of his many duos – this Violin and Cello Duo No. 2 H. 371 from 1958 when he was domiciled in Switzerland -a year before smoking caught up with the exiled composer. Its thus an introspective hard-hued work, still with the infectious buoyant energy and wonderful rhythms that characterize this composer. It’s more subdued, more hard-edged and the slow movement is a dark introspection worthy of some his most profound utterances from the late 1930s (the opera Julietta, the Double Concerto) and elsewhere in his string quartet No 5, an elegy for his lover. The pared-back sonorities here, the exposed liens the plangent pulsating dark, these are brooding involved statements. Even the bustling finale stops and starts with its manic energy desperate and sucker-punched by sudden interruptions.
Mark O’Connor’s fizzing encore from his Silk Road Project was another of those memorable pieces pulsing with echt-folk crossed with a Martinu-like energy, touched with a post-minimalism out of Michael Torke. It’s a fizzing ball of a piece, full of cross-hatched rhythms with close harmony. A great ending to a memorable start to 2020.