Most of us have attended functions where there’s been a raffle during the interval – or a few rounds of Bingo. Inevitably when the winners are identified, it’s not unusual for them to be greeted by usually light-hearted cries of ‘Same old faces!’, as they come up to pick their prize.
By the same token, The Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth, and its director Dr Robert Taub, could be accused of something similar, by bringing back two artists who had performed in exactly the same venue, a mere year ago, less a day.
But, unlike the raffle-ticket or Bingo winners, these ‘same old faces’ – violinist Mathilde Milwidsky with Huw Watkins (piano) – were invited back after their simply stunning performance last year. There are many highly-gifted violin and piano duos out there to choose from, but any self-respecting duo proper has to be more than just two equally accomplished and talented artists. There has to be that special charisma and chemistry between them that can be felt in every single note they play together.
Mathilde and Hugh have this almost DNA-like link between them in performance, and it is this that greatly helps in making this duo stand out head and shoulders from the rest. Even in the opening pre-concert talk, it was clear that Mathilde and Huw had so much in common, where interpretation was concerned, in fact all the essential ingredients of any successful personal relationship, but from the musical standpoint. At the risk of repeating myself, these pre-concert informal chats are now such a truly integral part of the whole concert experience, and something that no member of the audience deliberately chooses to miss, or be late for.
When the duo returned to the concert platform for the start of the recital proper, it was great to see Bob Taub getting involved yet again, but on this occasion in the role of page-turner. Apart from the pre-concert talks, which Bob always hosts, it really does help reinforce the eminently laid-back and friendly atmosphere which has pervaded every single event since the inauguration of the ‘Musica Viva’ Concert Series. This has, I’m quite sure, accounted to some considerable degree for the number of younger people present, and which manifests itself in a far broader demographic, in terms of audience age.
It also, of course, can affect the thorny old chestnut of whether audiences should clap spontaneously between movements, or do the time-honoured thing and wait until the whole work has run its course, before applauding. Generally-speaking, modern-day artists – like Mathilde and Huw – don’t seem unduly fazed when there is some unexpected applause, and, at those moments where it is musically important to move straight on to the next movement without a break, most performers can easily convey this in their body-language. Equally, performers have the option to ask that applause be limited to the end of any multi-movement work, if they so desire.
In the event, these ‘same old faces’ gave another spectacular recital where Ysaÿe’s Sonata for solo violin in D minor had to be Mathilde’s musical high spot, but, and as far as the duo was concerned, you’d have to go a long way to hear a better, more impassioned performance of Franck’s Violin Sonata, which concluded this sumptuous feast of music for violin and piano.
Meanwhile, you can read my full review of Mathilde Milwidsky and Huw Watkins’s duo recital here at Seen and Heard International.
Philip R Buttall
- Another spectacular recital from Milwidsky and Watkins - November 19, 2023
- Piano Passion | Robert Taub presents a stupendous performance - October 20, 2023
- A night at the opera | savouring each note with PSO - June 28, 2023