A triumphant rescue!
Three players from Sheffield’s Ensemble 360 were booked to play a programme of string trios for Ilkley Concert Club last Wednesday. However at the afternoon rehearsal, the violinist was afflicted with a recurrent injury and was unable to play. In the course of around two hours, the two remaining players, Rachel Roberts (viola) and Gemma Rosefield (cello) put together a full concert programme which delighted the King’s Hall audience and earned them triumphant applause!
The concert opened and closed with Beethoven’s ‘eyeglass’ duo – a jovial piece of domestic music which Beethoven composed for himself and a cellist friend, both wearers of glasses, to play. The opening allegro gave plenty of opportunities for conversations between the two instruments – Rachel and Gemma executed it beautifully with playful variations in speed and dynamics – which were repeated in the short but ingenious minuet and trio that follows.
The programme centred on performances of two Bach cello suites – no. 1 in G major played by Gemma and no. 3 in C major played on the viola by Rachel. In their introductions the players impressed us with the depth of their understanding of these masterworks which embody the range of human experience. However it was the contrast between the two performances which inevitably attracted attention. The first suite with its lilting arpeggios was given a fluidly athletic performance by Gemma. The richness of the viola sound produced by Rachel in the third suite was the first of many revelations in her performance. Her meditative approach successfully disguised the difficulties of this piece, drawing the listener in – a formidable acievement!
Earlier in the concert, Rachel had given us Henri Vieuxtemps’ homage to Paganini with all the expression one could hope for, her ability to connect with the audience again masking the huge technical demands. Gemma ended the second half with a solo piece by Judith Weir – Unlocked – based on songs collected from prisoners in the American south in which the modal and sometimes bluesy harmonies contrasted with the stunning range of effects – sliding, buzzing and percussive – that were called up from her cello.
We were privileged to hear two players of outstanding ability play, at short notice, a concert of music which they clearly loved!