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February 11, 2011 11:42 am

Tasmin Little and John Lenehan, Kings Place, London

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Spanning two centuries’ worth of violin repertoire in a recital may be an ambitious task, but that hasn’t stopped Tasmin Little from having a go. Starting with Bach and taking it from there, “Violin Journeys”, Little’s three-day festival at Kings Place, aimed to showcase her instrument in all its glory. Offerings ranged from cameo pieces to larger-scale works, ending on Saturday in a chamber concert that featured Schubert’s Trout Quintet alongside Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps.

Although undoubtedly a broad-minded project, this kind of fiddle fest does not readily lend itself to cohesive programming, as the opening recital made clear. Entitled “Partners in Time”, the concert combined Bach’s Sonata No.3 in E, BWV 1016, Mozart’s Sonata in C, K296, and Grieg’s Sonata No.2 in G, Op.13, with compilation-album favourites: Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro and Tchaikovsky’s Mélodie from Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Op.42. The result was a sequence of miscellaneous items that would have required more than just a loose chronological thread to hang purposefully together. And why sign off with Tchaikovskiana, a selection of tunes adapted, rather than composed, for the violin? This extravaganza of Tchaikovsky quotes, taken mostly from Swan Lake and compiled by Little and her accompanist John Lenehan, seemed an odd way to pay homage to an instrument so richly supplied with a repertoire of its own.

Nevertheless, Little’s performance was a compelling one, displaying a directness and warmth of expression that was particularly notable in the Bach. There is much subtlety in her approach, a graciousness that allowed the pianist his fair share of responsibility – adeptly handled by Lenehan – and an ability to let the music speak for itself.

Although these qualities served Little well on the whole, her tendency towards understatement set her back in the Kreisler, a piece that requires a certain degree of tongue-in-cheek flamboyance to come off convincingly. But she was fully on form for Grieg’s Sonata, her reading replete with verve and momentum. It’s just too bad that she felt the need to punctuate each piece with a verbal expansion on its attributes, a courteous but unnecessary gesture that ultimately distracted from the programme rather than helping to illuminate it. (

3 star rating
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kingsplace

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