United Kingdom Delius, Ireland, Venables, Matthew-Walker and Enescu: Răzvan Suma (cello), Rebeca Omordia (piano), St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London, 17.3.2017. (AS)
Frederick Delius – Romance
John Ireland – Cello Sonata in G minor
Ian Venables – Elegy, Op. 2
Robert Matthew –Walker – Fast Music, Op. 158 (First performance)
George Enescu – Cello Sonata in F minor – Allegro
It doesn’t seem long since Răzvan Suma and Rebecca Omordia played the Ireland Sonata in a previous lunchtime concert at this same venue, but since then they have played it several times in both the UK and Romania, as part of a tour sponsored by the John Ireland Trust. Omordia first came into contact with the work at a time when she was partnering Julian Lloyd-Webber in recital, and since then this fine pianist (born in Romania of a Romanian mother and a Nigerian father) has not only championed the Cello Sonata, but has become a strong advocate of Ireland’s keyboard works in general. I think the crusty old composer, always complaining about the neglect of his work in his latter years, would be delighted to have such a strong present-day champion.
Since their last performance of the Sonata at St James’s, which was powerful enough, Suma and Omordia’s interpretation has deepened still further. Their realisation of the work’s inner turbulence and despair, which doesn’t really let up at any point, were brought out in such a stark and compelling fashion as to convince one that it is a great masterpiece, which maybe it is. No realisation I have ever heard, live or on record, has ever approached the level of this playing. Not only was the performers’ emotional commitment immensely moving, but their technical mastery (the work poses considerable challenges for both performers) was such as to allow them complete freedom in the matter of expression. No hurdles needed to be approached with the slightest caution.
The recital had commenced with a beautifully poised account of Delius’s lyrical Romance of 1896, a rarity in the concert hall (though come to think of it, Delius’s works are all woefully neglected these days), and afterwards one feared that the Ireland sonata would completely overshadow what followed. But no, Ian Venables’ Elegy, composed in 1980 when the composer was 25 years old, proved to be a pleasantly expressive little piece, if deeply conservative in idiom for its time. Then we heard Robert Matthew-Walker’s Fast Music, here receiving a first performance, which was written at the request of Omordia, who wanted, literally, a fast piece to provide a contrast with the prevailing slow or moderately paced ones that tend to dominate cello and piano recitals. Fast and furious it turned out to be, full of intriguing rhythmic devices that would have caught out less accomplished performers than these.
Enesco’s single-movement Sonata, written in 1898 when the composer was a teenage student and discovered 90 years later, proved to be a thoroughly competent effort, rather charmingly reminiscent of Brahms. In its own way it provided a satisfying conclusion to a very fine recital.