Two As One

Anna Blackmur and Tom Poster, MCS Feb 7th 2014The Milverton Concert Society maintained two of its proud records last Saturday. One, to provide a first class evening of musical artistry, and two, to arrange for absolutely atrocious weather for the audience. A gratifyingly large number of people came to Milverton Parish Church to hear a lovely recital by Anna Blackmur (violin) and Tom Poster (piano), two virtuoso musicians in their own right playing together to marvellous effect.

Partners in life as well as in music, Anna and Tom presented a very varied programme, starting with a seldom-played piece of Mozart, his somewhat quirky K379 sonata, which is recorded as having been composed in one hour! It is an odd work, two slow movements in G major bracketing a faster one in G minor, but it deserves to be performed more often, especially if played as well as we heard it. Anna’s rich tone and impeccable double-stopping in the opening led to a soulful melodic line soaring above equally impeccable piano arpeggios from Tom. The stormy allegro movement showed Tom’s brilliance at the keyboard to great effect. (He alluded to the conventional dominance of the piano parts in works of that period in remarks he made later. Also of course, remember that Mozart was first and foremost a virtuoso pianist, and almost certainly wrote with himself in mind).

That said, we heard a true equal partnership between the two players – their obvious constant communication paid off in the most impassioned passages, the ensemble was spot on. The last movement is a set of five variations on a simple descending theme. Just occasionally during these, I thought that the impressive sound from Milverton’s fine Yamaha was just a little over-rich for this Mozart piece. Instruments of the time would have had a lighter, more silvery tone. However, Tom and Anna did the whole work a great service by playing it so beautifully.

Tom Poster, MCS Feb 7th 2014Tom then explained to us that due to some pretty hectic travelling and intensive engagements for Anna, they felt that they had not had time to prepare the Ravel G Major Sonata adequately, and that they would only be playing the middle ‘Blues’ movement. As a substitute we heard Tom play two of Liszt’s arrangements of Schumann songs. As you might expect from Liszt, the keyboard showman, the ‘arrangements’ were somewhat lush and technically terrifying. The description ‘swathed in swirling swarms of arpeggios’ popped somewhat alliteratively into my mind. Whether or not one approves of such treatment, this was a pianistic tour de force, and Tom’s performances were sheer brilliance. Bringing us back to Ravel with a lovely rendition of the ‘Pavane pour une Enfant Defunte’ we then heard the middle movement of that composer’s 1920’s sonata. Anna’s spiky pizzicato and slithery blues phrases were beautifully played – even the somewhat savage dissonances sounded just right. There are some tempestuous passages here, the violin solo singing out over very ‘busy’ piano. Never did one player overpower the other, again the ensemble was finely controlled.

After the interval, we heard Elgar’s fine 1918 Sonata in E minor. The opening is all passion and fire, and we were pinned to our seats by the power both players brought. The glorious tune in the middle of the first movement was really moving. The second movement starts in a very bleak and stark idiom, but soon leads into more melodic territory. Both players brought real power to the build up to the impassioned climaxes, but always under control. I particularly enjoyed the hints of ‘happiness being regained’ towards the end of this movement – Anna’s almost jocular playing of the relevant phrases was just right.

The finale was two players playing as one. A rich ensemble sound right through to the final triumphant pages made this a performance to be savoured.

Finally we heard two of the Heifetz arrangements of tunes from Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess’. The first was ‘Bess You Is My Woman Now’, and the arrangement was obviously done to showcase Heifetz’s legendary ability to double stop (play on two strings at once). Anna’s pretty good at it too! This was followed by ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ and my only comment here is Wow! The two players were wreathed in smiles at the end of this and so were we. A delicious lollipop of an encore (Elgar’s ‘Salut d’Amour’) put the final cherry on top of the icing on the cake. Lovely playing, lovely performers, lovely evening. No more to say.

Review by Harold W. Mead