Concert Review

Thomas Carroll (cello) & Carole Presland (piano) Beethoven/Lutoslawski/Janacek/Schnittke/Chopin Blackheath Halls 12 March 2000

It is not long since this programme would have frightened away some of the Blackheath Sunday Mornings regulars, but we do seem to be catching up finally with the last century!

Thomas Carroll, a Tillett Trust Young Artist, had an easy manner and good rapport with the audience. He introduced the programme by reminding us that it was the anniversary of Lord Menuhin's death. As a former pupil at the Menuhin School, where Carole Presland had been a teacher at the time, they both had long, fruitful associations with the great man, and dedicated this recital to his memory.

They showed themselves perfectly attuned to each other and to Beethoven's Op 102/1, his most concentrated cello sonata. It became abundantly clear that Carole Presland is one of our finest chamber music pianists, and she confirmed that she enjoyed playing the Blackheath Bosendorfer, which gives problems to some pianists. Carroll told of his personal contacts with Lutoslawski, whose Grave-Metamorphosis of four notes at the outset has become a standard repertoire piece. To end the first half of a perfectly judged programme, just the right length for a Sunday morning, Janacek's evocative Fairy Tale, a three movement sonata in all but name, not long a go a recital rarity, now turning up regularly.

The Schnittke 1st cello sonata (1979) packs a tremendous punch, and Thomas Carroll thought it prudent to warn people about shocks to come. It was a very creditable performance of one of this maverick composer's wilder and more extravagant works, with a 'crazed, manic' scherzo ending with forearm clusters fff on the piano, leading to a final contemplative largo finale. Not quite a match yet for the impressive Schnittke performances given recently by Ivan Ivashkin with the composer's widow (locally at Goldsmith's College and Wigmore Hall, and on CD) of all Schnittke's cello and piano works [see reviews in S&H December 1999, and on MotW], Thomas Carroll has the potential to become another of Britain's Great Young Cellists. The recital ended with an unbuttoned assault on Chopin's early Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante, its brilliance increased by the incorporation of successive arrangements of the cello part by Leonard Rose, Feuermann and Thomas Carroll himself. His virtuosity did by no means overshadow that of Carole Presland, who revelled in the opportunities to shine which the teen-age Chopin gave to the piano, his own instrument. A splendid, inspiriting morning of live and lively music making.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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