Holywell Music Room, Sunday 17th February 2008Another full house at the Holywell Music Room, as an expectant audience gathered to see cellist Gemma Rosefield and pianist Michael Dussek play G minor cello sonatas by Beethoven and Chopin.  And it was pleasing to see several students amongst the generally mature audience.

Whilst titled ‘cello sonata’, in both Beethoven’s G minor cello sonata, opus 5  no. 2, and Chopin’s G minor cello sonata, opus 65, the piano certainly shares an equal role. Michael Dussek, described by the BBC Music Magazine as an ‘outstanding artist’, performed with amazing control, especially in the furious passages in the finale of the Chopin sonata and the sections at the end of the first movement of the Beethoven.

Rosefield’s performance, too, was quite enthralling, and she was clearly immersed in the music, playing with her eyes shut almost throughout: she transmitted this love of the music to the audience, who even seemed quietly amused at some points in Beethoven’s humorous rondo.

When writing his cello sonatas, Beethoven was worried about a problem with balance, with the cello overpowering the 18th century fortepiano.  However, with powerful modern pianos the balance problem is often reversed in concerts today: Rosefield and Dussek managed to get this about right, however, and their performance of this piece was reminiscent of the Barenboim-Du Pre recording of the same work.

The Chopin sonata was very well received by the audience, with the juxtaposition of the contemplative largo with the scherzo and finale that surround it particularly effective.  These three movements could have made a complete work in itself, without the allegro first movement: in fact, in Chopin’s first performance of this piece the first movement was omitted, due to its reference to Chopin;s failing love affair at the time.

The concert ended with an encore, Elgar’s ‘Salut d’Amor’, which Rosefield announced as ‘in honour of the recently passed Valentine’s day’.  This was a beautiful end to yet more high order musicianship in the Holywell Music Room coffee concert series.

The next coffee concert at the Holywell music room is next Sunday, February 24th, at 11.15am, and will feature the Sacconi and Navara string quartets performing together, playing a Mendelssohn octet and Brahms sextet (tickets available from Tickets Oxford 01865 305305).