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Mozart, Beethoven, Dmitrova & Franck

Sonata for Piano and Violin in Bb K.454 – Mozart
Sonata for Violin and Piano in C minor Op. 30 No. 2 - Beethoven
Fantasia (première) – Nedyalka Dmitrova
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A – César Franck

Octavi Bartolomé (violin) and Benjamin Frith (piano)

Burgh House, Hampstead, London - 16th of April 2013

This recital saw the first in a series of chamber music concerts at Burgh House, organised by Middlesex University.

The Spanish violinist Octavi Bartolomé and pianist Benjamin Frith has become a regular duo. The music room in Burgh House is a small 19th century style parlour which is strongly reminiscent of the sort of place most of these works would be heard at the time of their conception. It was refreshing to hear Beethoven's Sonata for Violin and Piano in C minor Op.31 No.2 in this setting as it really brought to mind how violent much of the music must have sounded to Beethoven's contemporaries. Much of Beethoven's music is comprised of relatively simple themes with the complexity lying in the development. The duo played with remarkable clarity and showed themselves to be in perfect sympathy with one another playing the extremes of the dynamics and phrasing with real flair.

A sensitive Mozart performance must take into account the large range of diverse 'humours' that the composer often utilised; in his Sonata for Piano and Violin in Bb K.454, the duo did so magnificently. The inner harmonies of the music and subtle interplay between the violin and the piano was brought to the fore with apparent ease.

Another highlight was the première of a new piece, Fantasia, penned by Bulgarian composer Nedyalka Dimitrova. The piece opened with icy harmonics in the violin with double octaves in the piano moving through a brief lyrical moment peppered with an impressionistic texture before morphing into aggressive, dense chord work in the piano with piercing violin. Small cells of music interrupted and intermingled with each other as the piece chased itself to the end where the first phrase tried to reappear but was abruptly cut-short. It was a concise piece, Dimitrova made her point briefly and quietly withdrew.

Not much can be said about the dizzying talent that is Benjamin Frith that has not already been said but Octavi Bartolomé is still a bit of a newcomer in this country (despite boasting an impressive musical CV in his home country Spain). His Mediterranean heritage really shines through in his playing which is full of passion and exuberance. The only minor caveat to this (understandable as he is young and still completing his studies) is that his enthusiasm occasionally gets in the way of his technique, when both of these elements come together he will be an unstoppable force.

In fact, there was a brief glimpse into the future during a performance of César Francks Sonata for Violin and Piano in A, which is a piece both performers know well. The sinuous, aching melodies and harmonies seemed to come effortlessly, Bartolomé playing with a maturity which belied his age and the night ended to rapturous (and deserved) applause.

Rob Edgar