Performers: Tai Murray (violin) and Martin Roscoe (piano)
Reviews on this site have previously praised the Howard Assembly Room for the variety of programming. For this recital it was the versatility of the space that stood out. Anticipating numbers being less than for some other concerts, the audience was confined to the tier seats and the Steinway set in the cleared space of the Front Stalls. With Tai Murray adjacent to the piano, it made for an intimate and informal setting.
Her choice of programme was interesting, made up of pieces which are none too familiar, though there was a lack of a really major work. Each half began with a series of Three Romances by a Schumann, Clara in the first half, Robert in the second. Having given the programme some structure, Murray then added two very different minimalist pieces: John Adams’ Road Movie and Arvo Part’s Passacaglia. Finally came the most substantial work: Schubert’s Grand Duo.
Composed for violinist Joseph Joachim, Clara Schumann’s Three Romances make huge demands on the pianist as well as the violinist – and, once one or two problems of balance faded, both Murray and Martin Roscoe coped superbly, Murray, as throughout, achieving miracles of quietness. The Romances are keenly passionate, undergoing sudden shifts and dramatic reversals of mood.
Husband Robert’s Three Romances, which began the second half, could not be more different. They were composed originally for oboe and piano, the publisher Simrock bringing out a violin version without Schumann’s permission. Dating from some four or five years before his wife’s pieces, they are much more orderly – ironically in view of the composer’s mental illness – melodic and song-like. Only in the third are there hints of darkness, with a mysterious repeated phrase.
The remainder of the first half was taken up with John Adams and Arvo Part. It would perhaps be true to describe the Adams as the highpoint of the evening and the Part as giving us something to think about over our white wine or coffee. Road Movies gave us, in the outer movements, a breathless perpetuum mobile, recurring figures flying out at all angles, Murray and Roscoe in immaculate control. The soulful second movement offered a contrast, but not as much as Part’s Passacaglia which followed. Simple phrases built to an overwhelming climax, then it was back to the beginning and a slow fade-out on pizzicato violin.
The Grand Duo provided a fittingly Schubertian finale. After the relatively dramatic opening movement, with its dance interludes, a bold scherzo with wistful trio and a third movement that could have been termed a Romance, we reach the lyrical last movement, Murray sailing happily to the conclusion.
A relatively restrained recital (excepting John Adams’ pyrotechnics) was given artistic shape by Tai Murray and Martin Roscoe’s artistry.
Reviewed on 28th May 2022.