Steven Osborne & Paul Lewis, Cumnock Tryst *****
Christian Forshaw, Grace Davidson & Libby Burgess, Cumnock Tryst ***
Steven Osborne and Paul Lewis, the dream team of UK piano duettists, were in Cumnock on Saturday to share what Osborne, in his affable vocal engagements with the live Cumnock Tryst audience, referred to as a meeting of compatible musical minds, to which I would add the word “brilliant."
Their recital came on the penultimate day of Sir James MacMilan’s four-day festival. Anyone familiar with the duo’s recent French Duets CD will have known what to expect, performances imbued with natural bonhomie and seemingly impromptu touches, as if the two had been at a party and asked spontaneously to do a turn.
The music was perfect for the moment, a dreich Saturday instantly transformed by the sweet smiling melodies of Fauré’s Dolly Suite, the subtle intricacies and magically-shared pianissimos of Debussy’s Six Epigraphes Antique and Petite Suite, and the iridescent charm of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite.
On the other hand, Poulenc’s obstreperous Sonata for Piano Duet and the viciously simplistic wit of Stravinsky’s Trois Pièces faciles provided delicious opportunities for musical mischief-making. But always, as with these like-minded perfectionists, in the best possible taste.
Earlier on Saturday, saxophonist Christian Forshaw (artist-in-residence at this year’s Festival), soprano Grace Davidson and organist Libby Burgess presented a live, pseudo-ritualistic adaptation of their recent album, Historical Fiction, an uninterrupted sequence featuring Forshaw’s arrangements of early vocal music, from plainsong to Gibbons, Handel and Purcell, with compositional links of his own.
In music that lends itself to more generous Cathedral-like acoustics, even Davidson’s precise and ethereal voice seemed a little constrained. The performance lacked resonance. Ultimately it lacked electricity. A power cut silenced the organ, leaving the valiant Forshaw and Davidson to improvise a finish as best they could.
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