Musica Viva. Adelaide Town Hall. 7 Mar 2019
Natalie Clein (cello) and Katya Apekisheva (piano) have a shared and deep understanding of each other and of the music they play together. A nod or tilt of the head here, a knowing smile at each other there – it all adds up to one artist voicing with the other to produce a sound that is finely balanced and completely aligned to the emotional structure of the music. This is in evidence throughout the performance, and especially so in the two pieces by Ernest Bloch.
The program comprises compositions by composers who are well-known – Vaughan Williams, Bloch and Beethoven – and less well known – Rebecca Clarke and Natalie Williams, and it is a testimony to the enduring nature of the string quartet combination that the less well-known is as vital and enjoyable as the well-known. Although every composition is separately enjoyed in its own right, together they weave some special magic.
Six Studies in English Folk Song by Vaughan Williams and From Jewish Life by Bloch – composed within two years of each other – both celebrate the passion each composer had for their cultural heritage. The Dreaming Land by Williams celebrates the connection one has with the physical world and the relationship with others who are similarity connected. The physical world inevitably shapes the human world, and our response in turn influences the physical. Arguably, the Vaughan Williams and the Bloch celebrate the same: how we emotionally connect with what is around us. Williams paints a fictitious and imagined world, but we are drawn into it as if it were our own.
The alchemy of the programming deepens when one realises there is a connection between Clarke and Bloch, for Clarke’s Sonata for Viola (or Cello) and Piano came second to Bloch’s Suite for Viola in a composing competition in 1919.
And then, out by itself is Beethoven’s Sonata for Cello and Piano no 4 in C, op 102 no 1, composed more than one hundred years earlier than anything else on the program. Clein produces seductively creamy sounds in the tranquil and meditative opening, and they are razor sharp in their treatment of the fiercely rhythmic octaves in the transition to the allegro vivace.
The clarity of their playing is on fine display in The Dreaming Land, which is a highlight of the program. Not only is this Musica Viva tour giving the world première of the composition, and Clarke was born and bred in South Australia, but she is also present at the concert and addresses the audience from the stage. This is always special, and particularly when the composition is a significant one and is likely to become an enduring work in the cello repertoire. Apekisheva produces delicate but incisive accompaniment on the piano, and Clein’s melody lines are firm and declamatory without detracting from the partnership with the piano.
Natalie Clein reportedly loves music that tells a story. This is abundantly clear in her playing and this program is a masterful display of how the sonic world can represent the corporal and spiritual.
When: 7 Mar 2019
Where: Adelaide Town Hall