Review: Miriam Wakeling and Ben Socrates at Chichester Cathedral

Miriam Wakeling and Ben Socrates, Chichester Cathedral, Oct 31

There was an autumnal mood about much of the music in Chichester’s lunctime programme today with Miriam Wakeling’s cello rich over the fluent passages of the Ben Socrates piano. Farewell to Granada, veryMoorish, had melancholy in it which even being by Shostakovich wasn’t inevitable. 

In a packed house, our host Tim Ravalde advertised the seats behind the performers in the choir area and promised that the sound was good throughout the whole auditorium which, further back than usual in row 11, I can vouch for as far as there but I don’t like to feel too remote.

It’s not often we get Janáček chamber music in these recitals but would happily have more like his Pohádka which could almost have been Shostakovich in disguise. Fairy tales often have a sinister element to them and the spare first movement was unsettled, the Adagio continuing with pizzicato cello in among its longer, sonorous lines before the dance-like Allegro retained something of the same atmosphere.

Brahms’s Von ewiger Liebe was velvet cello in its lower register, steadfast and as deep as it would have been with the text added, 
For Eternal Love,
Steel is strong, and so is iron,
Our love is even stronger still: 

in its crepuscular setting. 

The Romance, op. 69, by Fauré had all the serenity required for a Sunday evening on Classic FM augmented by Ben’s gentle stream of piano and it had all been restraint so far but Beethoven was lurking at the bottom of the programme and he’s not usually one to let you off so lightly. In the Andante of the first movement of the Cello Sonata no. 4, Miriam and Ben made their thoughtful way before it became Allegro Vivace with bursts of impetuous unison and a perturbed spirit unable to find rest. Ideally, one wants the whole sonata to find out how it ends. I know it will be on You Tube but it’s not on my shelves and it’s a few days since I assuaged my appetite for box sets. No. 4 on its own won’t do at all, I’ll have the lot and so my next stop is to supplement the Beethoven section. It’s not possible to have too much of a good thing but shelf space becomes an issue.

For an encore, two of Nadia Boulanger’s Three Pieces for Cello and Piano were fitted in neatly for the 2 o’clock finish and the bus home at 2.05. The finale had a bit of Sorceror’s Apprenitice or Hall of the Mountain King about it, what with it being Hallowe’en, but one was left with a sense of disquiet, maybe loss, amid the calm as well as some gorgeous musicianship which is so customary of a Tuesday lunchtime that one almost omits to say.

David Green

Photo credit: Julian Dyson

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