Review: Ivory Duo, piano ensemble, at Lunchtime Live! at Portsmouth Cathedral

Ivory Duo ft. Adrian Green, Portsmouth Cathedral, March 7

It’s remarkable how many people one has come to know through doing this little website over the years, whether literary or musical. It’s a collateral benefit. My very good friends the Ivory Duo are always welcome at Portsmouth and were rewarded with a good-sized audience today.

Lola Perrin’s Homage to Debussy was a gentle awakening that lead into some actual Debussy, the Petite Suite which is a happy, playful set of four pieces involving impresssive integrated teamwork from Natalie and Panayotis as they negotiated some mid-keyboard congestion involving at least three of their four hands.

It was a ‘game of two halves’, changing mood when Adrian Green performed his own setting of Christina Rossetti’s When I am Dead, my dearest, a nice piece of work for a 16 year old which wasn’t as long ago for him as it was for some of us. The piano provided lilting accompaniment for the sixteen lines of forlorn Victorian weepiness taken from the whacking great tome of Collected Christina but one was entirely convinced by it. While Adrian and, say, Pavarotti are both tenors, that’s almost like saying that a gentle fortepiano and a vast cathedral organ are both keyboard instruments. One wouldn’t want to be without either.

But the main feature was the Songs of Travel by Vaughan-Williams. We might not think that’s 1960’s icon, Cilla Black and the man from Down Ampney have much in common but, as Cilla once -oooh -surrounded herself in sorrow, Vaughan-Williams for the most part takes on a yet more melancholy air than she did. Panayotis and Natalie shared the songs between them, presumably astonished to have the whole keyboard to themselves, Panayotis for the opening onward march, the rippling Let Beauty Awake and the plaintive Youth and Love before turning the pages for Natalie on the sepulchral In Dreams, the spacious, wistful Whither Must I Wander and the brief bonus track found in the composer’s desk some time later. 

We might have gone home somewhat more pensive than if it had been something more bombastic but the jollity had been in the first half and maybe that’s what life is like. 

I probably usually say we look forward to the Ivory Duo returning to Portsmouth and then they do, so my song remains the same.

David Green

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