Review: Emmanuel Bach & Jenny Stern at Lunchtime Live!

Portsmouth Cathedral, 11 May

One doesn’t generally know what’s going to be played at a Portsmouth Lunchtime Live!, only who will be playing it. Today Emmanuel Bach (pictured) and Jenny Stern gave a programme of Scandinavian composers.

Grieg’s Sonata no. 2, op.13 sounded great from the first note on Emmanuel’s violin. The first movement takes little time to leave behind its lento opening before it is gaiety and summery throughout with Jenny’s floribunda piano making it full of vibrant life.

The tranquillo of the second movement was sometimes no more than implied because it was passionate and danced, too. Emmanuel’s tremendous technique appeared to be doing the work of two violins in an echo effect before the finish. And the Allegro animato – Presto was exactly that, busy and cantabile in turns.

I’ve had a difficult relationship with the music of Einojuhani Rautavaara since many years ago buying a disc on the basis of a review and not hearing what the words had led me to expect but that’s words for you. His Lost Landscapes, however, did much to establish the composer in a better light although there was less light in this music than the Grieg. Introduced as ‘sepia flashbacks’ to places he had studied, Tanglewood was crepuscular and Rainergasse II, Vienna was sepulchral while in between them Ascona writhed and unsettled but the performance accumulated as it progressed before WEST 23rd, NY was slick and fast-moving in the piano while the violin was big and expansive.

Immediately lighter to end with was a rustic dance from Sibelius’s op.106 that briefly gave Jenny some of the main melody over some pizzicato.

It was a top-quality performance throughout. With such assurance and technique, it would be easy to say that Emmanuel Bach is an obvious star of the future but for one so young, his CV already includes playing with the likes of Vengerov and Anne-Sophie Mutter and so that future is here already. There is still most of a big career ahead of him, though.

David Green

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