WILLIAM CHARLTON-PERKINS reviews a Knysna Plett Concert Series Event
ARTISTS: ALEXANDER RAMM (CELLO), BRYAN WALLICK (PIANO)
VENUE: DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH HALL, KNYSNA
DATE: MONDAY 3 JUNE 2019
Monday's recital presented under the auspices of the Knysna Music Society offered a revelatory and rewarding evening of music-making, as delivered by the visiting Russian cellist, Alexander Ramm, ably accompanied by pianist Bryan Wallick.
Their finely curated Knysna Plett Concert Series programme opened with an early Beethoven work, the G minor Sonata for Cello and Piano Opus 5 no 2. This firmly inhabits the High Classical world of the late 18th Century - as opposed to the revolutionary ethos of its more familiar counterparts among the composer’s later masterworks. Both artists, the fleet-fingered pianist in particular, adopted a neo-Mozartian approach appropriate to this repertoire.
The highlight of the evening was the second item on the bill, Benjamin Britten’s rarely-performed Cello Suite No 1 in G Major. This found Mr Ramm unleashing the full gamut of his very considerable technical and musical prowess, thrillingly essaying the titanic hurdles of the extraordinary score which Britten bestowed upon his muse, the great Mstislav Rostropovich in 1960. What a gift to posterity, particularly for those of us privileged to hear the work so magnificently performed by its creator’s compatriot!
The second half of the programme opened with a scintillating performance by Ramm of Tchaikovsky’s effervescent Pezzo Capriccioso for Cello and Orchestra, in a chamber music reduction by Michel Pletnev. Here Dr Wallick remained discreetly in accompanist mode. The formal programme concluded with a welcome account of Chopin’s deeply searching Sonata for Cello and Piano. The performances of both artists left little to be desired, the pianist’s lambent, pearl-like tone effectively offsetting Ramm’s soaring, burnished sound.
Their choice of an encore, Paganini’s virtuosic Variations on the famous prayer from Rossini’s great Neapolitan opera, Mosè in Egitto, brought the evening to a delightfully witty close.