Review: Fumi Otsuki and Gisela Meyer at “Lunchtime Live!”

Fumi Otsuki and Gisela Meyer, Portsmouth Cathedral, May 23

Being next up on my itinerary after the Shostakovich Viola Sonata last week was always going to be a big ask of anyone. As it happened, Fumi Otsuki and Gisela Meyer provided some soothing medicine to help with the recovery from such devastation. Back to the safety and protection of some Scandinavian Romanticism, we were not asked to look directly into forever.

Stenhammer’s Violin Sonata, op. 19, is recognizably like Brahms, mellow and unperturbed and reaching some fine top register notes and Grieg’s No. 2, op. 13, opening with crepuscular piano, worked with shorter phrases, more energy in Fumi’s violin and decorative in Gisela’s piano before delivering moments of drama.

But if Fumi is as yet not quite as well-known as a composer as the rest of those on his programme, his latest Piano Sonatina, no. 4, was in some ways of the most interest. It juxtaposes some pastiche Bach with C19th-style flow before a middle section is entirely different again- disembodied, edgy and uncertain like the soundtrack of a scary film. Gisela played it with immaculate timing and suspense before the final movement brought the disparate elements together. It will repay further hearings when made available, to be sure.

To finish, Elgar’s Chanson de Nuit was smooth, valedictory and comfortable and completed the treatment and reassured me at least that one doesn’t, and really can’t, live at the extremities of human experience all the time. We get by with the help of our friends, some indulgence and such things as we need after gazing so intently into what we might not have been designed to understand.   

It was good to see Fumi’s latest appearance on Portsmouth Cathedral’s Lunchtime Live list so well attended which suggests that one can build something of a following by coming back regularly and it is to be hoped we will have the fifth sonatina to look forward to.

David Green

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