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Review: West End Festival

Alexander Janiczek/Philip Higham

Alexander Janiczek/Philip Higham

Cottier's Theatre, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

FROM beginning to end - and it is nearly the end - the Cottier Chamber Project remains full of repertoire surprises, whether they are unknown works or less-familiar pieces from well-known composers. It is all down to the musicians, who know the ins and outs of the music written for their own instruments better than anyone.

Such was the case in the wonderful concert given by violinist Alexander Janiczek, one of the best-known musicians working in Scotland, an absolute master of his chamber music craft, and Philip Higham, the soulful and impressive young cellist.

Few composers have written music more overtly gorgeous than Ravel, yet his large-scale Sonata For Violin And Cello, from the early 1920s, is not played very often, is probably his least-known piece and possibly his most uncompromising work, light years from the succulent beauties of Mother Goose, Daphnis and Chloe, the Pavane and all the others. It is lean, austere and has a fierce intellectualism at its heart.

It makes a bold statement throughout its four movements about issues and preconceptions of texture. Though there are beautiful, and indeed ravishing, moments, the overriding character of the piece, as underlined consistently throughout this electric performance by Janiczek and Higham, was of a composer establishing that purity and richness do not depend entirely on lushness.

The spareness of the texture and the fantastic interplay between these two fabulous musicians outlined precisely Ravel's musical argument that beauty need not be soft-centred.

The Ravel was prefaced by the irresistible rhythms and pungency of Martinu's Duo and the dreamy, seductive textures of Schnittke's hypnotic, sleep-laden Stille Musik.

Another fine night for chamber music.

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