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Gala Concert - Raphael Wallfisch And Peter Donohoe At Grassington Festival
Elaine Annable, Music Correspondent
Raphael Wallfisch
There aren't enough superlatives to describe this very special gala concert, my highlight of the Grassington Festival so far.

A casual glance at both performers cv's reveals long distinguished careers at the very top of their profession. From the moment Peter Donohoe and Raphael Wallfisch walked onto the stage with an unmistakable air of gravitas, the audience knew that they were in for a very memorable evening.

As Peter Donohoe said in the pre - concert talk, "Music comes first before the ego of the performer" and these two maestros went on to demonstrate that in a totally unfussy, un-showy way, with no egos in evidence.

Peter Donohoe
The programme as Peter Donohoe later posted on his twitter page "was huge but very rewarding..." and consisted of: Stravinsky's Suite Italienne, Beethoven's Sonata No3 in A, Op.69, Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata, Rachmaninov's Sonata Op. 19. ending with an encore of the second movement of Prokofiev's cello sonata.

Suite Italienne was one of several arrangements for instrumental duos taken from excerpts from Stravinsky's ballet Pulcinella. This one for cello and piano was arranged by the composer himself and Gregor Piatigorsky, Raphael Wallfisch's teacher and was the first to be called Suite Italienne.

Raphael Wallfisch, with the benefit of first hand advice on interpretation, clearly relished the challenge of playing it for the festival audience. With incredible rhythmic vitality and irresistible melodies, it was the perfect start to the evening and a hint of the wonderful things to come.

Beethoven Sonata No.3. in A, Op.69

Beethoven was the first major composer to write works with equally important roles for the cello and piano and in this sonata there was a perfect balance between the two instruments. The acoustics of the venue were perfectly suited to this particular combination of instruments and the timbre of both piano and cello was incredible.

Schubert Arpeggione Sonata

This work for Arpeggione, a bowed guitar, shows Schubert at his lyrical, light-hearted best and is full of melodic gems. It is amazing to think that this works belongs to a period in Schubert's life when he was suffering from episodes of depression and the advanced stages of syphilis.

Today the piece is almost exclusively played on cello and piano. The cello is clearly the lead instrument in this piece with the piano in an accompanying role.

Raphael Wallfish extracted every last amount of fun and playfulness from the ravishing Schubert melodies and the lyrical cantabile melody of the slow movement allowed us to fully appreciate the amazing depth and richness of his 1760 Gagliano cello.

Rachmaninov Sonata Op.19

Rachmaninov considered the cello and piano as equals and this Sonata demonstrates that. It is lyrically expressive and very technically demanding for both cellist and pianist. Most of the themes are introduced by the piano then embellished and expanded in the cello's part.

Peter Donohoe was clearly enjoying the much more technically demanding nature of this particular work, which had shimmering rising piano scales contrasting with frenetic staccato passages. The 4th movement once again featured sublime melodies from the cello of Raphael Wallfisch.

This was powerful, dramatic, totally assured playing, which showed off both performers impressive technique and their emotional connection to the music and each other.

The performers came back on stage to play the march from the second movement of Prokofiev's cello Sonata as an encore. A fun, witty, light- hearted piece to end a wonderful concert.

Although they have never worked together before this year, when they discovered that they both shared the same manager, Peter Donohoe and Raphael Wallfisch appeared perfectly at ease with each other and it is to be hoped that this happy collaboration will continue.

This was one of the most enjoyable chamber music concerts I have attended in a very long time and the Festival Committee are to be congratulated for securing the talents of these two performers who are quite rightly viewed with huge respect and affection as they both enter their 60th year.

The Yorkshire Times saw Raphael Wallfisch and Peter Donohoe at Grassington Town Hall on Tuesday 18th June.


Gala Concert - Raphael Wallfisch And Peter Donohoe At Grassington Festival, 25th June 2013, 16:17 PM