In this recital, everyone was looking forward to one piece in particular. One that had never been played at Breinton before; we had been waiting for the right moment to hear it. So here we were and on Saturday it happened. And the power of nature had created the perfect setting for us to listen it: The Lark Ascending. In our Surrey home (and Vaughan Williams had strong connections with Surrey) surrounded by nature, we were blessed with a beautiful clear sky and a peaceful wind mildly blowing on a summers evening. Birds were twittering happily in the background. Effortlessly, and ever so naturally, Madeleine's violin started, following the initial beautiful piano chords introduced by Andrew. The gorgeous cadenza of the solo part was inspiring; every single note was transparent and was connected smoothly to blend into the atmosphere. Madeleine's final high notes actually melted into birdsongs outside – it was so special.
The programme which Madeleine and Andrew pulled together seemed to have been created just for us. All the pieces were delightfully presented and I felt they suited our intimate concert room and our small but enthusiastic audience. The balance of traditional sonata pieces in the first half, followed by several short pieces by English composers, was really well thought out and presented such a splendid opportunity to listen to and enjoy a variety of music.
The first sonata was that of Mozart. The first movement had a slow start moving into allegro and was colourful and melodious. This sonata stresses the equality of the two instruments and sure enough I enjoyed listening to the both instruments equally. By the way, Madeleine commented that our audience was well trained, no clapping after the first movement which apparently happens often!
This was followed by Dvorak's Sonatina in G major. The delightful and light-hearted first movement was played upbeat, while the slow second movement made such a contrast. My favourite is the second movement; it has such melancholic melody which creates such a nostalgic feeling every time I listen to it. Absolutely beautiful.
The second half had two pieces composed by Frank Bridge (MÃ©lodie and Morceau CaractÃ©ristique). I hardly know works by this composer but what amazingly beautiful pieces they were. The piano part of the MÃ©lodie was stunningly presented by Andrew, which brought out and emphasized the violin part really well. Morceau CaractÃ©ristique was an inspiring piece played with passion. The violin's theme introduced at the beginning (which repeats a few times throughout) climaxes with the most fantastic harmonic note, which I loved. Madeleine also introduced an interesting story about this piece, that the score had been lost for nearly a century until she found it in the May Harrison collection at the Royal College of Music. I am pleased it was recovered.
We also heard Delius' LÃ©gende which was gorgeous (and it is Delius 150th anniversary this year!) and a contemporary piece composed by Michael Nyman.
The encore was Elgar's Salut d'Amor. The warmth of the sounds penetrated the audience's hearts; I wondered what everyone was thinking while this wonderful piece was being played. One participant told me afterwards that it brought tears to here eyes.
Madeleine's short talk on each piece was so informative and loved by everybody. Musicians who can perform and talk about the pieces they are playing are so special!
Madeleine and Andrew have been performing together for twenty years; no wonder they have the perfect timing, balance and volume between them. We were privileged to have them at Breinton – it was the perfect finale to conclude our 2011 / 2012 season.
- Sonata for Violin and Keyboard No 32 in B flat K 454 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Sonatina for Violin and Piano in G Op 100 - AntonÃn DvorÃ¡k
- The Lark Ascending Op 50 - Ralph Vaughan Williams
- LÃ©gende for Violin and Piano - Frederick Delius
- Full Fathom Five, from On the Fiddle (for Madeleine Michell) - Michael Nyman
- Melodie - Frank Bridge
- Morceau CaractÃ©ristique - Frank Bridge
Madeleine Mitchell is one of Britain's most celebrated violinists, performing in over 40 countries as a soloist and described by The Times as 'one of Britain's liveliest musical forces and foremost violinists'. She has been nominated for Woman of the Year, the European Women of Achievement and the Creative Briton Awards. She will be the soloist in Bath International Festival's Great Brits programme on 31st May 2012 including Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending and her arrangement
Andrew Ball studied with Kendall Taylor at the Royal College of Music and took a First in music at Queen's College, Oxford. Regarded as one of the foremost British pianists of his generation, a busy career has taken him all over the world. He has given countless premieres (including the first British performance of Sofia Gubaidulina's Piano Sonata at the Bath Festival), made his Proms debut playing Messiaen and studied Tippett's sonatas with the composer.