Brighton Year-Round 2019
Caroline Colingridge and Margaret Grimsdell are a well-known, adventurous duo. They played works by Johan Helmich Roman, Neils Gade, Herbert Lindholm, Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, Laura Netzel.
Caroline Colingridge and Margaret Grimsdell are a well-known, adventurous duo. This was a truly exploratory programme, with not one standard in it
Colingridge enjoys a clean flute sound like Anne Allen’s recently. Her tone also blooms particularly well in the Chapel Royal acoustic. An ideal recording venue were it not for the traffic. Colingridge’s sound-world has a floaty top edge but underlying this is the structure of clean projection to offset romantic and lyric.
Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758) the ‘Swedish Handel’, is an attractive baroque compose: fluent, a bit like Telemann as well as Handel, and full of a tuneful late-baroque slightly Rococo edge to him. His Flute and Continuo Sonata No. 6 in B minor BeRi 206 suggests a darker territory, a key rare for the time used in keyboard recitals. Just the first three of five movements are played here – a typical slow intro Larghetto which touches things that might re-emerge in the later movements not played here; then a perkier Allegro and a Non troppo allegro hardly slowing down, suggesting this isn’t going to end too darkly.
Neils Gade (1817-90) could easily be called the Swedish Mendelssohn, as like William Sterndale Bennett in the UK and Johannes Verhulst in Holland he was a friend of Mendelssohn and succeeded him at the Leipzig Gerwandhaus after Mendelssohn’s early death. Gade left in a year though when Prussia invaded Schleswig-Holstein, part of Denmark.
He’s possibly the most successful Mendelssohn disciple with his eight symphonies, fluent romanticism and with Echoes of Ossian Op 1 and quite a lot of chamber music (e.g. a superb Sextet) and those symphonies still played. Easily the finest Danish composer before Nielsen, he’s melodic, sometimes truly memorable.
The duo play the first two of 4 Fantastiestucke Op 43 from 1864 for clarinet or violin and piano (Gade was a violinist). The Andante con moto has a Mendlessohnian ripple to it, a hint of those masterly scherzos, but the Allegro Vivace is really fine, hinting at Gade’s best chamber music.
Herbert Lindholm (b. 1946) isn’t a major Finnish name like the slightly younger group of Kalevi Aho, Kaija Saariaho (particularly) and Magnus Lindberg, but he’s in email contact with the duo, and writes strongly neo-baroque solo flute music, as evidenced in his 1991 Variations on a Swedish Folk Tune which was limpid and showed off Collingridge’s solo tone beautifully. It’s a piece worth listening to in rapt silence.
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) hardly needs introduction. His Romance Op 78/2 from 1915-17 is an arrangement from violin and piano – like Gade Sibelius was a violinist and had wanted to be a virtuoso. It’s a finely wrought attractively fluid piece though not as memorable as his best work. The Nocturne from his 1906 Belshazzar’s Feast Op 51/3 is though a darker-hued thing, bringing some of the tenebrous twilit world we know of this composer.
Straight after Grimsdell sashayed into Grieg’s Nocturne Op 54//4 from the fifth book of Lyric Pieces from 1890, one of Grieg’s freshest inspirations with its barely-contained erotic excitement and longing, and allowing Grismdell to deploy wondrously chiming sonorities and a fierce delicacy in her pianism.
Carl Nielsen’s the greatest Danish composer still, born like his friend Sibelius in 1865. ‘Taagen Letter’ literally ‘The Fog is Lifting’ comes from his 1920 Suite Mother is a real gem, incredibly tender, with a dipping-and-rising theme slowly passing over regret. Collingridge relishes etching this delicacy like a Watteau over Grimsdell’s inlaid accompaniment.
Finally the most impressive work of all. Laura Netzel (1839-1927) to disguise her gender wrote as N Lago and was then accepted for publication (having had the same pieces turned down previously). Her Berceuse Op 69 from 1900 still shows she wasn’t that prolific, unless written much earlier, and it’s memorable, interestingly thewed with a lot going on that bears re-hearing, perhaps with more of a concert devoted to her.
Most of all her Suite Op 33 mined a darkly brilliant set of contrasts. Netzel studied with the slightly younger Widor and his chamber music – not as well-known as it should be, dwarfed by his organ works – suggests the tradition Netzel points to as well. Serious French chamber music was only just asserting itself, and this deeply resonant music, full of thew and counterpoint, deserves further listening and study. It really impressed.
They’re stylish recitalists, deserving of the kind of exposure they receive at concert venues like this, and more.