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6th Jul, 2022

Harmonious meeting sets a musical example of what’s needed

THERE have been numerous examples down the years of good things arising from outwardly catastrophic circumstances.

Not that such an outcome would have been in the thoughts of those organising this year’s festival when on the eve of getting under way they lost one musician to an arm injury, received news that the expert giving the key talk had had to cancel, were forced to pull the plug on a student showcase and – as has been previously reported – lost a celebrated Russian pianist marooned in Zagreb by the bureaucratic red tape covering visas.

But if the measure of a festival’s ingenuity is not in its planning but in the way it deals with the unplanned, this year’s edition was truly a success on all fronts.

A fitting, if unexpected, finale to the festival came in the shape of two pianists – Ukrainian Sasha Grynyuk and Russian Roman Kosyakov – sharing a platform and then a piano in a joyous programme of party pieces.

Music with its aptitude for harmony and consort is an easy metaphor for what the world currently needs and what is so obviously lacking in some quarters and it would be hard not to view this swiftly concocted recital as being more than just a Russian and a Ukrainian sitting literally shoulder to shoulder playing so constructively and peacefully as one.

But the symbolic significance can’t be ignored and though both demonstrated mastery of power and technique in spades in their first half solo pieces – enough to spark fears for the wellbeing of the rather costly hired instrument – it was the second half partnership which will linger long in the memory.

The injury which deprived us of one third of the Leonore Piano Trio did pave the way for a hastily reprogrammed recital from cellist Gemma Rosefield and pianist Tim Horton. These slightly shorter lunchtime concerts are invariably sparkling gems in the fabric of the festival. Offered here were twin treats in the form of sonatas by Beethoven and Grieg bookending a performance of Bruch’s Kol Nidrei which was simply stunning. Such heartbreaking tone and depth of emotion was utterly beguiling – and to think that happenstance notwithstanding we would never have got to hear this.

Reprogramming of a different kind came from violinist Lana Trotovsek and pianist Maria Canyigueral in their midday recital opting to hold back their Vaughan Williams until the end. Ordinarily a performance of Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata would be enough to send the listeners out delighted – and the playing here really was out of the top drawer. But such is the popularity of The Lark Ascending that its inclusion as the finale was as popular as it was justified. Another sparkling gem.

The Sacconi Quartet opening the festival and the Sinfonia of Birmingham filling the larger spaces of All Saints Church, both did justice to the music of Vaughan Williams, the central theme of the weekend. It was a theme of pastoral tranquility and joy picked up in both excellent organ recitals and by the celebrated baritone Roderick Williams in his hugely-popular appearance.

But somehow no matter how welcoming a prospect the English countryside can be, the spectre of war in Ukraine and the threat that holds for us all meant this festival carried with it a brittle hope that through music and musicians the next movements will be a little more harmonious.

Leamington Music returns on Saturday, June 26 with a special double bill of summer opera in Warwick. Full details and ticket booking at leamingtonmusic.org

 

 

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