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Piano 4 Hands (Joseph Tong & Waka Hasegawa piano duettists)

Mozart Sonata in C, K.521
Schubert Fantasie in F, D940
Debussy Petite Suite; La Mer

Blackheath Sundays, Recital Room, Blackheath Halls, 11.30 a.m.October 28th 2007

Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola) & Anthony Hewitt (piano) London Chamber Music Society Sunday Series at Conway Hall, London, October 28th 2007, 6.30 p.m.

Marais, Schumann Marchenbilder Op 113, Martinu viola sonata, Kodaly Adagio, Enescu Concerststuck, Brahms Sonata Eb, Op 120/2

Two duos on Sunday morning and early evening. Tong & Hasegawa pleased a sizeable Blackheath audience with a programme which avoided the most famous canonoic works for piano duet - if indeed there is one, as piano duet concerts are rarities. Playing mostly from memory, they misjudged the small auditorium in the first movement of the Mozart, which was oppressively loud; and they might have been better advised to omit the exposition repeat. Indeed, the recital would have sounded better down in the main hall (if that was not in use) and the sight-lines would have given a better chance to watch the players - crossing hands in duets is always a small pleasure!

But after that first movement, they settled down, with well managed dynamics and perfect balance and unanimity whichever partner took Primo or Secundo. Lacking programme notes (a computer "down" at the Halls) Joseph Tong from the stage gave useful pointers to our listening. The four-movements-in-one Schubert Fantasie, a peak of the repertoire, took us comfortably to the interval, after which the elusive whistling of an offending deaf-aid had thankfully disappeared...

The Debussy selection showed that travelling recitalists can, if they are insistent, get away with interesting programmes without alienating ticket purchasers or listeners! The popular Petite Suite was a perfect foil for La Mer - in its duet version which preceded the orchestration. One cannot pretend however that this is other than a transcription, one which loses by contrast all the way against a peak of the orchestral repertoire. But good to hear for once, and it sent the artists home to rousing applause, not least for their aplomb in managing unaided the hairy page turning... The long walk to the doors at the back of the Recital Room vitiated our hope of an encore!

I saw afterwards a lot of interest in their debut CD on sale in the foyer [Quartz CMCCD 10104]; again, no obvious favourites, but instead an entire Debussy programme with several rarities !

see also http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd/Debussy4Hands.html

Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola) Anthony Hewitt (piano)
Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1, Sunday, October 28th 2007 6:30pm

Marais – Téma con Variazioni
Schumann - Märchenbilder
Martinu – Sonata for Viola & Piano
Kodály - Adagio
Enesco - Concertstücke
Brahms - Sonata in Eb Op.120 No.1

This venerable series, priced inexpensively, which I have been attending on and off for some sixty years, has a loyal clientele of chamber music enthusiasts. Next year, after practically 80 years at Conway Hall, it will be moving to a new concert hall 3/4 mile away at King's Place, York Way, which will be convenient for arrivals on Eurostar! Not all Conway Hall regulars look forward to that change...

This was their first viola recital for several decades. Some of us cannot afford to wait a like period for another ! A distinguished violist, and founder of the Leopold String Trio, Sarah-Jane Bradley impressed throughout a demanding programme with stirling values and gorgeous tone from her British instrument (G.A Chanot, Manchester 1896); to our ears, she is altogether superior to the latest hyped super-star.

This was a satisfying programme with only the Schumann and Brahms repertory pieces, both given affectionate performances. The Martinu is a big work which deserves to be heard often, rhapsodic and forceful and entirely characteristic of the composer in every bar.

I don't know how often this duo had played together? The pianist Anthony Hewitt, who had been admired at Blackheath recently, was a little overbearing at times, and one found oneself listening more intently to the quieter voice of the viola.

All in all it was a fine concert, and we were all glad to have a subtle new piece as encore, I was a shepherd by the Artistic Director of this importand concert series, Peter Fribbins.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Tong & Hasegawa have a new festival at Bristol in October 2009: http://www.pianoduofest.org.uk