Review: Tom Lowe and James Bailieu

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Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York

A programme of fireworks and sweetmeats where the more relaxed and lyric sections better suited this critically acclaimed cello and piano duo.

Maybe the opening work, Mendelssohn’s Variations Concertantes, should have been left to later in the evening when fingers had warmed to the score’s technical challenges. Tom Lowe’s intonation in the fast-moving sections left something to be desired.

Indeed we had already passed through a purposeful, if somewhat straightlaced, account of Beethoven’s Fourth Cello Sonata before Lowe’s wide and fast vibrato found a spiritual home in the Kodaly’s vocally orientated Adagio.

It was even more rewarding in the passionate invocation of Ernest Bloch’s three Pieces from Jewish Life, where subtle use of rhythmic nuances added a suitable degree of poignancy to the opening Jewish Song.

There was a brief hiccup in James Baillieu’s accompaniment to the Brahms Second Cello Sonata, but throughout the concert he was a most responsive partner who now brought the requisite weight to this most splendid of cello works.

It is a score that calls for a rich flood of expansively warm and resonant sound to breathe life into one of the composer’s most highly contrasted scores, and in Lowe it found both. The outgoing and dramatic moments were ideally captured and the finale eventually opened up to reveal Brahms in his most joyful mode.