Review: 24 January 2019 Tasmin Little, Martin Roscoe

This was the second of three concerts devoted to Beethoven’s ten sonatas ‘for piano and violin’.

Tonight, Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe presented three shorter, three-movement sonatas – No.2 in A major, No.4 in A minor, and No.8 in G major – and the more substantial Spring Sonata, Op.24, which they sensibly placed at the end of the programme. In the two earlier sonatas (Nos.2 and 4), the piano is definitely the dominant partner, and Roscoe responded with sensitivity and wit, sustaining the musical line whilst always alive to the twists and turns of Beethoven’s quixotic musical imagination. The tricky figurations in the Allegro vivace of the A major Sonata were perfectly balanced, more elegant than virtuosic, while the almost Schubertian melody of the second movement was warmly lyrical with no trace of indulgence. Little clearly enjoyed her role as accompanist, weaving her arpeggiated figures into the piano texture and performing her soloistic lines with gentle tones that never challenged the piano’s authority.

In the two later sonatas the piano and violin are more equal, and here I sometimes missed a more characterful style of violin performance. The opening of the Spring Sonata was lovely, but the dynamic contrasts later in the movement might have been more marked in the violin (they were very clear from the piano). Similarly, the theme of the slow movement was gorgeously played by both pianist and violinist, but the violin’s arabesque-like figures towards the end surely have something to say beyond mere decoration. But all in all these were delightful performances that were duly appreciated by the packed audience. The encore, the slow movement of Op.30 No.1, offered a glimpse of the musical treasures that await us next year.

Professor Peter Johnson