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Leonore Duo

And then there were two!
Sunday 23rd April, 2023

When Ben Nabarro, violinist with the Leonore Piano Trio, injured his wrist, the consequences could have been considerable.  Fortunately, his two colleagues, pianist Tim Horton and cellist Gemma Rosefield, play regularly together as a duo and were able to offer a thrilling replacement programme to Music Nairn.  The Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu is not as well known as he should be, and his Variations on a Theme of Rossini (1942) proved to be a lively, humorous and virtuosic display of this unique musical voice.  Reminiscent of the abrasive music for cello by Kodaly, Martinu's Variations displayed the composer's intimate understanding of both instruments.

Before playing the C-major Suite for Solo Cello by J S Bach, Gemma Rosefield introduced us to her venerable cello, an instrument built by Nicoló Gagliano in 1704, some sixteen years before Bach wrote his Cellos Suites.  It was owned for a time by King George IV, who had this favourite instrument decorated with floral designs and his royal crest – by good fortune GR are also its current player's initials.  A spirited performance of the Third Suite suggested that this special instrument still responds well to the music of its youth.

Tim Horton opened the second half with elegant performances of two Chopin Nocturnes, op 27 numbers 1 and 2, emphasising the underlying the core strength of Chopin's idiom, although not neglecting the lyricism of his effortless elaborations and decorations. 

The concert culminated in one of the major masterpieces for cello and piano, the G-minor Sonata op 19 (1901) by Rachmaninov, a work of compelling passion and flawless musicality.  Back in 1983 Nairn's Clifton Players performed Turgenev's A Month in the Country, and our director Gordon Macintyre chose this sonata for the incidental music.  Its wonderfully evocative phrases transported me back to an unforgettable experience – I could even picture specific scenes from the performance forty years ago in Clifton House.  Rosefield and Horton gave us a truly towering performance of this masterpiece – the languid slow episodes were magically expressive, and the more dynamic writing simply flew off the page in the hands of these two gifted musicians.

While I wasn't the only one in the Music Nairn audience transported back forty years, there was nobody who wasn’t profoundly moved by this powerful reading.  Extended applause elicited an encore performance of the slow movement of Chopin's Cello Sonata, perhaps the perfect way to round off this hugely enjoyable concert.

Reviewed by: D James Ross

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