Review: Valentina Seferinova and Catherine Lawlor at Lunchtime Live!

Valentina Seferinova and Catherine Lawlor, Portsmouth Cathedral, July 6

Two of the most memorable musical events across the region so far this year have featured Catherine Lawlor and her violin, in Szymanowski and Shostakovich. I’m resistant to any but the most necessary belief in coincidences but one doesn’t need to be Chief Inspector Barnaby to find an explanation. This further outing, completing the set of her CD, Myths and Legends, with Valya Seferinova, has been a priority in the diary for quite some time.

One of the more familar legends is Grieg’s Peer Gynt and the Morning Mood was airy, Anitra’s Dance spirited, Catherine’s violin was tossed about on the stormy sea of Valya’s piano in Peer Gynt’s Homecoming and, still not prepared to believe in coincidence, Solveig’s Song, as featured in the episode of Maigret shown on Talking Pictures on Tuesday, was melancholy, as that detective often is.

Cyril Scott’s Lotus Land, arr. Kreisler, evoked the sultry days of Ulysses’s sojourn. It was dolorous and drowsy but with some top end violin drama before it melted into the ether. It would be easier to find superlatives for Catherine and Valya’s musicianship if one was seeing them for the first time but one becomes accustomed to luxury, as Ulysses did, and a better tribute than recycled adjectives was the well-above average attendance in St. Thomas’s Chapel. There are clearly others equally in the know.

Valya told the story of the intrepid work undertaken to find a violin/piano arrangement of Litolff’s Rêve d’un captif and the restoration done on it to bring it about for the album and this performanceThe title does much of the listener’s work for them in imagining dreams of open spaces and C19th adventures, in which rapid eye movement would be at its most rapid in the explosive combination of the duo.

Frank Bridge’s Norse Legend had the violin part in its viola range for much of the way when the music conjured big landscapes before the world premiere of Ian Schofield’s Anemoi.

Written for the CD, Ian was present to explain his piece about wind gods and the harbingers of seasons. One is glad to see that living composers have survived the avant-gardeism of some decades ago. The ‘mainstream’ is all there really is while fashions come and go. Anemoi is a compact poem of accessible description entirely in keeping with the rest of the programme. As he explained, it ‘disappears into the distance’ after its vivid painting, as now does this admirable series of recitals before returning in September.

A very special encore was one of the best-known pieces of music in the world, in its Happy Birthday, Valentina version. The impromptu audience choir were accompanied by Catherine. My contribution was necessarily muted as I was sat next to what I took to be recording equipment and my voice is not one that requires to be saved for posterity. It was surely a very happy birthday and it is for me to celebrate it here, not to have ruined it there.

Myths and Legends is due later this yearfrom Willowhayne Records.

David Green

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