It was just like the good old days at the Barber, an enthusiastic full house packing this charming auditorium to hear a celebrity recital from players of the highest calibre.
Cellist Natalie Clein and pianist Alasdair Beatson joined in a collaboration of immense, almost instinctive empathy in a range of works encompassing huge differences in style, delivering each with an integrity entirely appropriate to the piece.
Their respective stage-presences, however, couldn’t be more different. Clein, so much at one with her instrument, radiates a quiet serenity even in the most impassioned moments, focussing us entirely on the cello. Beatson is developing some distracting body-language which really should be addressed, not least his nervy, jerky foot-movements.
As is fashionable, the artists gave us introductions from the stage -- rather prolix, in view of the excellent programme-notes, and occasionally hesitant.
But the performances themselves were very fine indeed, beginning with an account of Debussy’s late Cello Sonata which revealed an extrovert character not often found in more fey readings of this wonderful work.
Faure’s Second Cello Sonata was given with an almost vocal eloquence from Clein, and Beatson, relishing his well set-up piano, found a teasing pre-echo of Poulenc’s tender wit in the finale.
Webern’s Three Short Pieces were tellingly delivered, every note resonant with a whole gamut of effect and significance, and, in complete contrast, Brahms’ mighty Second Sonata found a surging strength from these partners. And Natalie Clein’s solo performance of Lutoslawski’s fascinating Sacher Variation was utterly compelling in response to its scuttering note-patterns developing into broad melody, and with microtones which opened doors to glimpses of an utterly new tonal world.