S&H recital review

DEBUSSY La Mer etc DVORAK Silent Woods etc MOZART Sonata K 387 York-2 (four hands) Blackheath Halls 18 March 2001 (PGW)

Piano duets used to be a staple home entertainment pleasure and a chief way for people to familiarise themselves with orchestral music. Often, music was published first in that form. The Yorks, a husband and wife team, have been exploring major orchestral works on a single piano and had a success with The Planets. They have given also Stravinsky's Sacre de Printemps and told us that La Mer, the most successful item in their Sunday morning programme, was 'even harder'. All the intricate crossed-hands work demands sympathetic duettists!

They began with Dvorak, but familiarity with other arrangements for cello (with piano and with orchestra) left us wishing for Silent Woods to be shaped by a melody instrument such as the cello, or by a pianist with the Chopinesque skill to fake melodies more convincingly than on this occasion. The inner parts were not balanced with the refinement one has come to expect of four handed piano playing, whether on one or two instruments. The Mozart sonata (originally for four hands at one piano, although Matthew Taylor's programme notes were confusing about it) went better, but there is always the danger of over-inflation on a modern grand, which was not completely avoided. Ravel's arrangement of L'Apres Midi without the flute proved a workaday effort, not comparable to his orchestrations of piano music, and will have been more interesting to play than to hear. La Mer as originally written & published by Debussy was far more rewarding and made this homely morning of domestic music making before a small audience worthwhile in the end.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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