Music at Paxton

Alina Ibragimova/Pieter Wispelwey/Cedric Tiberghien/Doric String Quartet

Paxton House, by Berwick

Miranda Heggie

four stars

NOW in its 11th year, Music at Paxton once again welcomes a host of world class musicians to Paxton House in the Scottish Borders, giving audiences a wonderful opportunity to hear chamber music performed in the type of space for which it was originally composed. Sunday’s proceedings began with Cedric Tiberghien’s rousing rendition of Bartok’s Sonata for Solo Piano, in the stunning setting of Paxton House’s Picture Gallery. The strong, driven opening of the first movement was played with a marked clarity, while the sharp dissonances of the second movement were explored with an intuitive tenderness.

This was followed by Pieter Wispelwey’s beautifully animated interpretation of Max Reger’s 1st Solo Cello Suite. The final fugue movement had stature and elegance, combined with a passionate, almost animalistic quality. Tiberghien then returned to the stage with recent MBE recipient, violinist Alina Ibragimova, to play Brahms’s Sonata No3. With a perfect balance between the two instruments, Ibragimova’s smooth, sonorous playing resounded through the room during the tender Adagio, before both players combined for a fiery finale.

The second of Sunday’s concerts, a solo recital given by Wispelwey of Bach’s 1st, 2nd and 6th Cello Suites, was a late addition to the programme, with Wispelwey giving a second concert, since his performance of the same works the day before had sold out in no less than 48 hours. Taking place in the dining room, which seats only 40, this was a very special and intimate performance. Though he has performed these works for over 30 years and made three recordings, Wispelwey’s excitement and passion for the music was fresh and fervent, as though constantly uncovering new treasures in the music. He played with a raw, organic intensity, fully exploiting the freedoms of the instrument with a skilfully subtle rubato. The prelude to the first suite had a bold momentum, followed with a jaunty lightness in the third movement, Courante, and luxuriant double stopping in the Sarabande. Originally written for a 5 stringed violoncello piccolo, the 6th suite saw Wispelwey bring out a higher tonality; its prelude gently rocking, but still with a grounded stability. The following dance movements were given a buoyant vibrancy, with spectacularly rich chords in the gavottes.

The final performance of the day saw the Doric String Quartet give a spirited performance of Schubert’s single movement Quartettsatz in C minor, before being joined on stage by Pieter Wispelwey for Schubert’s final chamber work, his String Quintet in C. The players produced a zesty, bright sound, especially in the final, Hungarian-inspired movement. The quintet’s interplay between major and minor tonalities lent a deep sense of intrigue, before bringing out an exhilarating potency in the final bars.