Review: Nicola Tait Baxter & Mina Miletic at Chichester Cathedral

Chichester Cathedral, May 7

Organised by Chichester Cathedral music events

Many of the pieces one knows best are those one had recordings of first and thus had fewer to play. For Christmas or a birthday in the mid-70’s, my parents gave me a cassette of Dvořák’s Greatest Hits and so some of his music is very familiar. It’s not so much Songs my mother taught me but songs my parents bought me. Lunchtime recitals are mainly of chamber music and so today’s programme, which was all Dvořák who is not best known for that, was a rarity. I’m not sure I can remember any previously but it was most welcome. 

One of those ‘greatest hits’ was the Slavonic Dance, op. 46 no. 8, which in today’s inventive arrangement by Chuchro retained all the orchestral brio and zest and another was those Songs, op. 55 no. 4, immediately providing the other half of the composer’s personality with its wide-open spaces and broad perspective. That was necessarily the highlight for me. Georgia Mann described a piece for cello by Dvořák as ‘sumptuous’ this morning and if it’s a good enough word for her to broadcast to the nation, it’s good enough for me to borrow here.

The centrepiece of the programme, though, was the Polonaise in A, more ambitious and demanding with the drama in Mina’s piano and Nicola’s cello going to both the violin and bass ends of its range.

Silent Woods returned to the lento, profound and atmospheric and showing off the lush cello tone to best effect. If it works like a poem and sounds like a poem, it’s probably a poem.

The Rondo, op.94, was a finale made of a folk dance with vestigial traces of Mozart in places, full of textures and emphases to propel it forwards. Dvořák comes across as almost as untroubled as Haydn was last week, at least on this evidence and I’m not aware of too much of a downside to him.

An entirely convincing performance and a few minutes in hand allowed for an encore, Dobrú noc, má mila (Good NightMy Darling) which was all serenity and clarity.

The New World Symphony surely counts as his greatest hit and I’d have the Song to the Moon from Rusalka but there were plenty more exhibits here with which to make his case in competition with his mate, Brahms, and he shouldn’t be far away from him in the rarefied strata of late C19th greats.

David Green

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