Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Christopher Glynn, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, July 25
THE violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen was to have been the mainstay of Ryedale Festival’s final weekend, giving an Elgar programme in tandem with pianist Christopher Glynn on Saturday afternoon and then leading her Albion Quartet on Sunday evening.
In the event, she appeared on Saturday only and the Carducci Quartet played Beethoven when the Albion had been promised in Schubert. These are unpredictable times and we must go with the flow of RyeStream, the revised, online festival.
But her Elgar was immaculate. Her lack of sentimentality gave it a feeling of freshness, while consistently sustaining the composer’s momentum. The heart of her recital was Elgar’s only surviving violin sonata of 1918 (he had destroyed another written 30 years earlier).
Even bearing in mind that the violin was the composer’s own instrument, I cannot remember it sounding more personal than it did here. Elgar had waited till relatively late in life to compose his three greatest chamber music works – the others being the string quartet and the piano quintet – but they hinge on his transition from great
patriotic topics to a more sober sensitivity, doubtless brought on by the Great War.
Those two strands are reflected in the two themes of the Violin Sonata in E minor’s opening Allegro: Waley-Cohen contrasted them beautifully, the one with resolute, forceful rhythms, the other with calm arpeggios (prefigured by the piano in the first theme).
The quirky Romance was straight out of an earlier era, echoing the rural serenity that the Elgars had found when they moved from London to a small Sussex cottage in 1917. It did not prevent this duo from reaching an impassioned climax, though they remained emphatic in the muted, closing bars.
This pairing, always tautly intertwined, responded to one another most closely in the wistfulness of the finale, where Glynn’s piano neatly echoed many of the violin’s phrases. Waley-Cohen’s long bows in the reminiscence of the Romance were especially effective, before the coda brought a spirited close.
The rest of the programme gave us Elgar’s three most famous salon pieces for the violin. The seriousness of Chanson de Nuit was complemented by a more playful Chanson de Matin, as if reflecting emergence from our present crisis. Salut d’Amour (played as an encore) would have gladdened the gloomiest heart: English music at its most cheery.
Review by Martin Dreyer