Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Wigmore Hall, London

Mozart’s B-flat Duo, K424, opens in richly expressive terms leading into a complex exposition of contrapuntal depth that suggests more than two instruments are being played, an illusion enhanced by Benjamin Baker and (pictured) Timothy Ridout being not only skilled and insightful musicians on their own terms but also a well-matched duet, and extending into Mozart’s eloquent slow movement and the nicely varied Finale.

This programme of music by string-playing composers continued with Sibelius’s C-major Duo, a pristinely written and heartfelt miniature. Martinů’s Three Madrigals followed, energetic and rhythmically chiselled in the outer movements (the second of them also given to languishing), mysteriously trilled and emotionally intense in the central one, hypnotic – as if night were illumined by the orange glow (matched by Ridout’s viola tone) of a camp fire: smoke, shadows, spectres.

Finally, Johan Halvorsen’s Sarabande con variazione on a Theme of Handel, somewhat tedious as music but the performers’ artistry won through, and they went on to give us a bonus, the last of York Bowen’s Three Duos, a perpetually mobile study.