At 4pm on the day before the recital, I received bad news; Hanna Hipp, our mezzo soprano who had been engaged together with pianist Emma Abbate was too ill to perform. My first reaction was “You’ve got to be joking”. The next 24 hours leading up to the recital was a bit chaotic, as you can imagine, but the result was… just splendid! We welcomed two pianists, Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins, for their programme of four hands, ‘A Playful Tournament’. 

Some of the audience guessed, watching their natural way of communicating and interacting through music and the subtle gesture to each other, that Emma and Julian were a married couple. In their Mozart pieces, particularly in the D major Sonata, their warm tones (but not without crispness) were really pleasing. Both Sonatas had several repeats but the passages were not repeated in the same manner. They added some ‘fun elements’ of trills and accentuations which gave a fresh spontaneity. 

Claude Debussy’s Petite Suite had a completely different texture and resonance. It was picturesque and stimulated my imagination with little vignettes of scenes flashing into my mind. It is a game I play when I hear good music, which is satisfying indeed.

Stephen Dodgson is a composer I had not heard of before this recital, but the performers knew him towards the end of his death eighteen months ago . Tournament for Twenty Fingers, a series of short pieces, were high-spirited and quick-witted, and filled a pocket between the Mozart and Debussy with a completely different style. What’s more, it was quite refreshing to hear something that you could not find from Google or YouTube!

Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances raised the atmosphere and tension to a climax. The piano was sounding at its best and emotions, soaring. With the full-bodied sound of Dance No 2, it was like being caught in a swirl of romance. So sentimental. 

Julian and Emma expressed their love of performing pieces that had been originally written for four hands. Their encore, however, was a "very shamelessly arranged" Chopin’s Waltz in A flat major. What a delightful evening it had been.

Our recital room became a perfect music chamber where everything we had wished for just happened. It was like the programme found the best place for performance, or vice versa. Most of all, their musicianship and personality were heartfelt.

Programme: A Playful Tournament

  • Mozart: Sonatas for Four Hands in C major, KV 521 (Allegro-Andante-Allegretto)
  • Debussy: Petite Suite, L65 (En bateau, Cortège, Menuet, Ballet)
  • Mozart: Sonata for Four Hands in D major, KV 381 (Allegro-Andante-Allegro molto)
  • Dodgson: Tournament for Twenty Fingers (Gavotte, Romance, Fantasia in C minor, Cradle Song, Hilly-Billy)
  • Dvořák: Slavonic Dances No. 2 Op. 72 and No. 7, Op. 46

Julian Perkins

Recently described as ‘exuberantly stylish’ by the Sunday Times, Julian Perkins has a growing reputation as a keyboard player and conductor of considerable talent and versatility. His discography has seen acclaimed solo and chamber recordings for Avie, Coro, Chandos, Opus Arte and Resonus on a wide range of instruments, including the Royal harpsichord by Burkat Shudi at Kew Palace. These have included world première recordings of harpsichord suites by James Nares and John Christopher Smith, Stephen Dodgson’s clavichord suites and Daniel Purcell’s opera-oratorio The Judgment of Paris. 

Emma Abbate

The Neapolitan pianist Emma Abbate pursues a varied career as a chamber musician and vocal coach, working with some of the finest singers and instrumentalists of her generation. She has performed in duo recitals for international festivals and concert societies in Salzburg, Lisbon, Naples, Ischia, Koscierzyna and Sorrento, and at many prestigious UK venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Southbank Centre, St John’s Smith Square, St George’s, Bristol and at the Aldeburgh Festival, in addition to broadcasts on BBC Radio 3. She also cultivates an active interest in historical keyboards, and has performed on a range of original instruments at Finchcocks and Hatchlands.