One of the greatest young British violinists playing one of the greatest  romantic sonatas: this was the spectacle at the Holywell Music Room last  Sunday, as Jennifer Pike gave a breathtaking performance of violin sonatas by Ravel and Franck.  Pike won BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2002 at the age of twelve, and her recital last Sunday showed that her early promise is certainly being fulfilled.  The famous Franck sonata was particularly well received by the audience, who filled the hall easily.  It was so full, in fact, that people had to sit on the stage behind the violinist.

Accompanying Jennifer Pike was her father, Jeremy Pike.  The great understanding between the pair was evident, particularly in the antiphonal section at the beginning of the third movement of the Ravel.  This movement was particularly energetic, with dashing semiquavers, and was well appreciated by the audience.  Ravel’s love of jazz was clear in both this and the second movement.  Upon hearing a black jazz band in 1921 in Paris, Ravel asked in a letter, ‘Have you been to hear the negroes?  Their virtuosity is at times terrifying’.  This virtuosity was clearly on display in Pike’s performance.

The Franck sonata certainly lived up to Jeremy Pike’s description as both ‘uplifting’ and ‘tragic’ in different places.  The intense silence of the audience following the third movement showed their appreciation for Jennifer Pike’s playing.  The themes which recurred throughout were brought out beautifully by the young violinist, and the fiendish piano part was exceptionally well played; this was especially noticeable in the second and final movements.

The concert ended with an encore. Jennifer Pike played an arrangement of Gershwin’s ‘It ain’t necessarily so’.  Her love for the piece was clearly on show, and was hence transferred to the audience.  After such a fantastic concert, the next in the series is eagerly anticipated.  It will be held next Sunday at 11.15am, and consists of the Tippett string quartet playing Beethoven and Tippett (tickets available from Tickets Oxford 01865 305305).