Birmingham Cathedral *****


Birmingham Cathedral’s regular series of free Friday lunchtime concerts offers a worthy menu of performances, generally from its own roster of organists and students from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. This time, however, it served up a dish featuring three international stars to enthral a small but appreciative audience of office-workers and fascinated tourists.

The programme was an attractive one, opening with Slovenian violinist Lana Trotovsek and Catalan pianist Maria Canyigueral giving an enthralling account of Beethoven’s C minor Sonata. Actually the composer designated this as a Sonata for Piano with Violin Accompaniment, but all the balance issues were sensitively and brilliantly solved here, Trotovsek’s pure, forward tone well matched by Canyigueral’s adroit pianism.

Phrasing was articulately, deftly shaped, the slow movement breathed a lyrical glow, and the outer movements delivered plenty of tightly-controlled drama.

Canyigueral was joined by Trotovsek’s partner, Slovenian flautist Boris Bizjak, in Prokofiev’s delicious Flute Sonata, a work combining fairy-tale narration with disturbing intrusions from the real world lurking outside (Canyigueral magnificently percussive and driving in these episodes). Pan-like, Bizjak was both sweet and skittish, adding a physical response to his remarkable unfolding of this magical score.

In conclusion Trotovsek and Bizjak combined for Halvorsen’s remarkable Passacaglia. this Norwegian composer’s work originally written for viola and cello, but here in a brilliant arrangement for violin and flute by Bizjak himself. We move from evocations of Bach’s great D minor Chaconne, through Paganini’s 24th Caprice (this before Rachmaninov’s unforgettable Variations), and onto a wonderfully-created finale. Our two performers here did it proud.

Christopher Morley

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