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FringeReview UK 2018

Juliet Edwards and Yoko Ono Four Hand Piano, Ravel and Rachmaninov

Juliet Edwards and Yoko Ono

Genre: Live Music, Music

Venue: Chapel Royal, North Road, Brighton


Low Down

Juliet Edwards and Yoko Ono arrive with the slightly more unusual combo of four hand piano. They played Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and Rachmaninov’s Six Morceaux Op 11.


Juliet Edwards and Yoko Ono arrive with the slightly more unusual combo of four hand piano. Composers from Schubert to Poulenc have made this relatively popular, as distinct from the two piano luxury power ensembles like the Lebeque sisters enjoy for instance.


Ravel’s 1908 Mother Goose Suite is famed in its orchestral guise, but this piano version is rightly popular in its own field, and seems to get even more outings than its big brother, so to speak. There’s even a piano solo reduction. It’s all about childhood, as so much of Ravel is. Written for the Godebski children, it’s an enticing half-dozen filters from fairyland. The gossamer textures orchestrally conjured are here replicated on the piano’s upper register. Edwards and Ono swapped with the following work but here Ono took the upper and Edwards the lower.


They enjoy an extraordinary unanimity of purpose whilst wealding individual timbres. In the opening ‘Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty’ we’re lulled with a sonambulistic stretched out version of that famous earlier Pavane for a Long-Dead Princess. ‘Tom Thumb’ arrives with a gossamer speedbut with a light lilting waltz too. Ravel’s Chinoserie was always, like Debussy’s more terraced versions pretty well advanced. Pentatonics prance in ‘Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas’ in a tripping march that also ensure the duo have to finish in sweeping unison. The waltz movement proper is ‘Conversation between Beauty and the beast’ and it’s remarkable for its eerie calm too. Finally ‘The Fairy Garden’ shows a sweet, remarkably emotional climax Ravel was to recapture seventeen years later in his opera L’Enfant et Les Sortileges. From Ono’s sweeping glissandi to the unanimity of their performance this is really distinguished playing.


As is their rendition of Rachmaninov’s early Six Morceaux Op 11, from 1894 completed when he was twenty-one. These are intermittently vintage Rachmaninov but already characteristic. He’d competed his Piano Concerto No. 1 though later revised it, as well as his famous Prelude Op 3/2, ad a couple each of short operas (he wrote three) and piano trios.


Edwards took the treble upper register, and showed like Ono her ability to make a piano sing in its most brittle harmonies.


The G minor Barcarolle marks a fine ruminative opening familiar to anyone apprehending the full reach of Rachmaninov’s darker pieces, though the D major Scherzo following has something of the Rachmaninov we know better. The Theme Russe in B minor is another tenebrous piece but aerated with being a set of variations. The next though a Valse in A major sounds out of Satie, with an emphatic downbeat start theme in the bass it sounds jarring harmonies, leaping up the piano in a polar-bear polka. It’s wholly surreal: it reminds us what was lost when Rachmaninov dared modernism in his Symphony No. 1 a year later. Its reception rendered him, after his recovery, a more conservative composer. Here though we enjoy the edgy, off-kilter young genius. It’s thrilling.


The C minor Romance is a quiet and darkly radiant episode of regrets, before the bell-tolling finale: Glory in C major. This like the end of the very different Suite for Two Pianos Op 17 is a thrilling swing to the end. Superb.