Winifred Copperwheat (viola) and Hans Redlich (piano) gave last Thursday’s concert. The programme paid a delicate, nay, robust compliment to our stamina, and Hans Redlich paid several to that of the piano.
Beginning (and continuing) with Brahms’s Sonata in F minor, Op. 120, No. 1—a work whose architecture is as passionately undulating, as full of sudden jewels of artifice, and as concise as the main platform of Cambridge station—many of us were regaled with Britten’s “Lachrymae,” then some Wilfrid Mellers, and Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata—but not, alas, on an arpeggione.
Miss Copperwheat’s tone and agility were a pleasure to perceive; and why would she come to Cambridge if they were not? The pair are to be congratulated on the lovely barrage of sound they put up.
Britten’s “Lachrymae” in two hundred years’ time will be one of those focuses of argument such as the Haydn Cello Concerto. Who, people will ask, could have written it? It is so full of extremes. But, in fact, it is a delicious joke (if you ignore the noncommittal fidgetting that passes for harmony). For sheer ingenuity of noise the work is hard to beat. There are many delectable high-spots: the passages where (pizzicatissimo) the player simulates a Lancashire loom—fingers shuttling in and out of the strings in a dither of devilish dexterity, or again where pathetic harmonics are elicited, reminiscent of a eunuch dying from laryngitis—or, in what should have been the finale (if Mr Britten had not tacked on a piece of Dowland at the end which was quite irrelevant) —the uprising agitato of a myriad angry bees swarming out to Grantchester at ten to three.
Mr Mellers’s sonata was a different kettle of fish. In the main a moody but interesting work. Restraint the keynote, but restraint perhaps taken to excess. The whole was oddly shaped. Generations have found out that a sonata is most satisfactory with a quick finale; to put the finale in the middle, sandwiched between two dirges, is flying in the face of one’s ancestors. But I admit this intermezzine finale is most adroit, for I have never till now heard a rondo so constructed that the main theme was indistinguishable from any of the episodes. This is cohesion with a vengeance. Harmonically, Mr Mellers is fascinating, and will soon overtake Hugo Wolf, unless the latter gets a move-on.
Miss Copperwheat was wise not to attempt to play the Schubert on the instrument for which it was written, namely, the arpeggione. The last time I heard this hybrid monster (fretted and bowed) some years ago near Dresden, it was said to be the only one in existence. During the concert the bottom fell out, the bridge collapsed, and the Allegretto was a fiasco. By now, I imagine the Anobium Punctatum has put a full stop to the movement.