19 Feb 2010
Stunning start to society series THE Belfast Music Society used to present an annual series of chamber music concerts throughout the season. Now it telescopes nearly all of them all into one weekend festival. With the help of the BBC, the festival brings together a top class group of musicians under one theme -- this year, Folk Inspirations. Alexander Baillie (cello) and James Lisney (piano) gave the opening recital last night in the Great Hall at Queen's. Martinu's Variations on a Slovak Theme provided an arresting introduction. His strikingly unique harmonic progressions were punctuated by alternately lyrical and more rhythmical passages, a fine vehicle for Baillie and Lisney to display their worth. Baillie produces a light but carrying tone, rich in the emotional propensities associated with this most romantic of instruments. In Chopin's Sonata for cello, a perfect balance was struck with the piano, due to the gloriously controlled accompaniment of Lisney. How could one be surprised by the intimate musical interaction from such an established partnership as this? If the Chopin work explored both familiar tracks and less trodden byways of the anniversary composer's late style in a polished performance, then EJ Moeran's cello sonata also caught the attention through its unfamiliarity but darker hues. More a sonata in name rather than form, its subtle Irish overtones were tempered by an English romanticism fully portrayed by this dynamic duo. Finally, Schumann provided perhaps the least challenging music of the evening but none the less enjoyable for that. A stimulating start to the BMS weekend of concerts. (c) 2010 Belfast Telegraph.