Brighton Year-Round 2022
Jane Faulkner and Gary Peacock play two Mozart Violin/Piano Sonatas in the Chapel Royal Concert series. No 27 n G, K379, and No. 26 in B flat, K378 – both dating from 1781. In between they play Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne from 1911, one of her earliest works, written at 18. This concert replaced the one advertised.
The English Piano was due to be performed at the Chapel Royal; but owing to Covid only the pianist Gary Peacock could perform, partnering here violinist Jane Faulkner in two Mozart Sonatas framing a Lili Boulanger Nocturne from 1911.
The Mozart sonatas were written back-to-back (if Kochel numbers are anything to go by) in 1781, and here performed in reverse order.
Mozart’s Violin/Piano Sonata No. 27 in G K379 harks back to the baroque in its opening Adagio, a dream-like sequence with searching piano chords with the violin only gliding in obligato-fashion a little way in, in a song-like aria straight out of an opera, almost speaking. That leads into an emphatic Allegro in G minor – of more tragic force than the overall key would suggest. By now we seem in a different work. It’s an extraordinarily operatic one too, Idomineo behind him and the Seraglio just ahead, vocal energy here bursts out with a speaking violin and a chordally explosive piano. Finally a Theme with five variations spins out with infinite patience and almost innocence, turning sprightly; and an Allegretto version of the da capo theme conclusion recalling the opening. Lasting about 17 minutes, it’s a mature, absorbing work.
Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne like her other works are becoming increasingly familiar – the other work for Violin and piano, the characterful, joyful Cortege particularly played in concert, often after the Nocturne. About time.
Winning the Prix de Rome at 19 with her amazing Faust et Helen (the set text of the year) Boulanger went on to choral/orchestral works like Psalms 24 and 130 which are stunning, stark and post-Impressionist. She died days before Debussy in March 1918, at only 24, of intestinal tuberculosis.
Boulanger’s Nocturne has the lilt of the Habanera refracted through the berceuse – both genres beloved of late-Romantic French composers. The Nocturne builds impressively from this, with a gently rocking rhythm that becomes impassioned, a bit like Chopin’s Nocturnes crossed with a bit of a central section from one of his Ballades.
Boulanger as her great sister Nadia (composer and above all teacher) realised, was a startlingly original voice. She sounds depths – those choral worlds are guttural with war too – and a mastery born of knowing how little time she had to enjoy living and writing. Faulkner and Peacock reveal the depths of this work by focusing on line and letting the world of such an emerging composer speak for itself.
Mozart’s Violin/Piano Sonata No. 26 in the masonic B flat K378 is a bigger work, something like 20-21 minutes depending on performance, and like many Mozart E and B flat works (the 39th Symphony, say) has strange stabbing ceremonial chords that seem like a bleak funereal procession. This might be vaguely connected with the E flat of his masonry, but clearly the key allowed Mozart to introduce other elements freemasonry hardly dreamt of. They’re here too, the piano stabbing some unusual harmonies, just briefly, into the opening movement.
The opening Allegro moderato, swift and singing, classically phrased and quite fully orchestral, almost concerto-like, lasting over nine minutes. We then get an Andantino sostenuto e cantabile – basically slow song. It spindrifts through a summer haze, again full of classical phrasing t a song-like element introduced on the piano, taken up by the violin. It lasts five minutes, gently fading out.
That’s before the decisive piano-led Rondeau in Allegro time rounds the work off as fleet, its perky memorability edging to mysterious sideslips and revelations held at bay by a crystalline – and in this work, conventional – structure ever so slightly disturbed. The violin’s emphatic chords in the central section of the rondo are again darkly minor and the piano too becomes dramatic. The sudden scamper for home with both instruments in unison, with a dotted rhythm and presto conclusion elevates this work to something like a concerto again.
Peacocks plays with emphasis and some delicacy in this small blossoming chapel acoustic, on the baby grand. There’s a fieriness as well as cantabile singing tone in the way that Faulkner negotiates the many unusual features of the G major, and the E flat which as its own E flat hinterland.
These performers are a delight: revealing, light-textured but romantically prophetic where that shading calls for it. Consummate Mozart performers – with a revelatory unskeining of the Boulanger.