Miriam Kramer & Nicholas Durcan at Chichester Cathedral

Summer is a fine thing in fiction, poems or in Vivaldi but for me it need not stand upon the order of its going. The first signs of autumn are most welcome, the drop in temperature, the nights drawing in and, not least, the return of the lunchtime concert season at Chichester, Portsmouth and other such admirable places nearby. There are plenty in the diary from now until the end of November and I’ll be trying to find appropriate things to say about them here while the limited stock of language can do any justice to them. I wouldn’t be so bold as to call them ‘reviews’ but maybe ‘some sentences arising’. Attending and listening is only half a job. Having some response makes it more complete. To misquote Socrates, the unexamined performance is less worth hearing.

Miriam Kramer and Nicholas Durcan set the new season in motion in fine style with a glittering dash through their arrangement of The Carnival of the Animals, reducing the Saint-Saëns to ten minutes but still including a few little surprises along the way before a bravura finish.

Schubert’s Fantasia, D.940, was contrastingly crepuscular, showing off another aspect of Miriam’s tremendous technique. Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op.73, began in a similar mood but moved through the gears, via some interplay between piano and violin, on its way to a ‘fiery’ ending. How much time a musician or sportsperson seems to have is an indicator of talent to spare but not all violinists have so much time to spare that they can turn the page of the pianist’s music for them.

It wouldn’t be sensible, or possible, to pick a highlight from the programme, not with an arrangement of the Brief Encounter music – Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no. 2, slow movement- here entitled Preghiera (Prayer) which could have built to another big finish but decided not to and then more Saint-Saëns with Danse Macabre and all its ghostly effects, including the ‘ricochet’ bouncing of the bow on the violin strings. But also, I thought, some traces of baroque stylings in the violin. A hint of Vivaldi or a Bach partita. To find such a lucky guess confirmed by Miriam saying she plays Bach, who is her favourite composer (which is the right answer), makes me wonder if I could have a future in this job but I dare say I’ll get it wrong as often as I’ll get it right. She is the focus of attention in these pieces but I suspect Nicholas is doing plenty and it’s a duo act and not a soloist with her accompanist.

It’s possible that after the summer drought, of local live music as well as water, the first refreshing splash seems so great that it is more gratefully appreciated than usual. I guess so but, on the other hand, I doubt it. Miriam and Nicholas would be a tremendous show whenever you saw them. And they were an excellent way to get back into the happy routine.

David Green

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