Classical review: Laura van der Heijden, Peebles

Laura van der Heijden made her first Scottish appearance since winning Young Musician of the Year. Picture: Complimentary

Laura van der Heijden made her first Scottish appearance since winning Young Musician of the Year. Picture: Complimentary

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ON TUESDAY, Music in Peebles played host to two remarkable young musicians.

The spotlight was naturally on cellist Laura van der Heijden, making her first Scottish appearance since shooting to prominence two years ago as outright winner of the 2012 BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. But this packed recital would not have reached the heights it did without the partnership formed with the 29-year-old Japanese pianist Mana Oguchi, whose needle-sharp support throughout this well-balanced recital – precise, innately musical and simply a joy to watch – conjured up a compelling sense of equilibrium, interaction and empathy. Truly a duo performance.

Take the delicate interplay that ignited flirtatious energy and character in Beethoven’s Variations on a theme of Handel (instantly recognisable as the tune to the hymn Thine be the Glory), in which van der Heijden’s focused, oaken tone and athletic precision vied puckishly with Oguchi’s super-clean pianism.

They then explored the more extensive emotional realms of Brahms’ Sonata in D major (better known in its G major version for violin and piano) with equal poise and perspicacity, its warm, lyrical melodies given effortless fluidity in this luminous, multi-shaded performance.

There was a distinct change of character in the second half, ranging from the fiery old-Vienna pastiche of Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style, with its unexpected moments of harmonic disintegration, to Britten’s virtuosic, ear-tingling Sonata in C.

All that, and the encores that followed, can be heard again tonight at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh.

Rating: * * * *

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