Review: Charlotte Salouste-Bridoux and Joseph Havlat at Chichester Chamber Concerts

Chichester Chamber Concerts series, 9 November

Another dazzling concert of chamber music was provided for local music lovers here in Chichester’s Assembly Room on Thursday 9th November, hosted, as usual, by Chichester Chamber Concerts.  Two astonishingly talented young musicians, the Australian pianist Joseph Havlat, and the French violinist Charlotte Salouste-Bridoux performed works by Schubert, Ravel, Szymanowski and Clara Schumann.

The concert was ‘book-ended’ by the first of these composers: the relatively early Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major (which dates from 1816) and the sturdy and passionate Rondo for Violin and Piano (from 1826, only two years before Schubert died).  The Sonata was bright and deft and melodious, more than somewhat reminiscent of some of his earlier lieder; whereas the Rondo provided what Richard Wigmore has called “music of unflagging rhythmic energy, by turns skittish and strenuous, leavened by moments of stillness and harmonic poetry”.  And you can’t say fairer than that.

In between came the hugely substantial Violin Sonata no. 2 in G by Ravel, which for this listener was the most powerfully moving event of the whole evening: at times infused with a skittish and mischievous wit, as the composer frequently allows jazz elements into the score (the second movement is even explicitly labelled ‘Blues: Moderato’); but, as is so often the case with Ravel, in that very Blues-inflected movement we also find the same characteristic vein of delicate and wistful melancholy that we heard not just in the opening bars of the preceding Allegretto, but at intervals throughout what follows.  The huge technical demands imposed on the violinist in the final manically hyperactive Perpetuum mobile simply defy comprehension.

What a contrast was provided by Szymanowski’s Three Songs from 12 Kurpian Songs, sensitively arranged by Joseph Havlat, so that the vocal part is now ‘sung’ by the violin: this was starkly sensuous music that lingered in one’s mind for hours afterwards.

And then came Clara Schumann’s ever-popular Three Romances: passionate, poignant, and forceful pieces that have long helped to secure them in the classical repertoire (long before her current ‘rediscovery’).

One went out into the cold night air invigorated and refreshed by this rich musical smörgåsbord.  In a world so rent by the ugliness and destructiveness of war, one must always be grateful for the joyful creativity of choice spirits such as the composers featured in this concert and the players who so exquisitely and lovingly performed their works.

Kevin Maynard

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