Quite special to hear viola-piano partnership

Guest performer at this week's Wednesday lunchtime concert in Marama Hall was international viola player Kate Hamilton.

Together with pianist Tom McGrath (University of Otago) they presented a programme of three chamber works for viola and piano.

With a register spanning both treble and bass, overlapping the violin and cello, the viola is more often heard in orchestras and chamber ensembles, where it adds a richness and resonance to the overall string textures, so yesterday was quite special to hear it more exposed and in partnership with the piano.

The programme began with Scherzo (Sonatensatz) in C minor WoO 2 by Brahms. This is a well-known recital piece more usually heard on violin, and it seemed rather subdued and much less vibrant in the lower setting, but the delivery had flair and contrast.

Next came three movements from Suite for Viola and Orchestra composed by Vaughan Williams in 1933-34, and which he later arranged for piano and viola. They chose the first three of the eight.

Prelude was strongly lyrical with the viola producing some rich melody lines; Carol definitely with song-like melodies that were reminiscent of Christmas carols, but also suggestions of walking in the English countryside; Christmas Dance was a real contrast, dance-like with bright tunes prancing about till captured in a final unexpected cadence.

The duo returned to Brahms for a performance of his final chamber composition written in 1894 - Sonata for viola and piano in E flat major op.120 no. 2.

Lovingly defined string melodies highlighted the allegro amabile, and more definitive chordal passages from the piano gave character to allegro appassionato. The final andante con moto, a theme and variations was much more majestic, showcasing the piano particularly with some flashy arpeggio runs at the finale.

-By Elizabeth Bouman 

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