Wye Valley Music

Music in June

What brings three globe-trotting, world-renowned musicians to the tiny Hom Church in Walford on a Saturday in June? It is the Wye Valley Music in June series of concerts and the musicians, violinist Tom Hankey, cellist Robin Michael and pianist Daniel Tong are part of the Wye Valley Ensemble. They have had along association with the Wye Valley, and seeing it, in all its June glory, one was not at all surprised that they have to keep coming back to drink in its beauty.

The concert transported us to middle Europe. The church has been lovingly restored in a manner rather evocative of Vienna or Prague, creating the perfect ambience for Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in A opus 30 no 1. This was one of three sonatas written at a very difficult time in Beethoven’s life when he realised that he was losing his hearing and had suicidal thoughts. It is considered by many to be one of his most beautiful chamber works. The slow movement is very sad and poignant, but in the finale Beethoven seems to have given him himself a bit of a talking-to: “Never mind, I can still hear music in my head, and I can still write it down. I had better get busy."

Tom Hankey and Daniel Tong performed the sonata with the utmost listening and attention to detail that it requires.

Robin Michael and Daniel Tong then performed the Brahms E minor Cello sonata, accompanied by song thrush outside the church that replied to Robin’s cello ever louder and louder as the broad melody built in the first movement. Was it the contrapuntal style of Brahms, combining two different melodies that provoked the thrush to contribute a third? He or she sang less during the second, quieter minuet. Brahms was very much influenced by the music of Bach and the third and final movement was reminiscent of The Art of Fugue with the piano and cello chasing each other as in a wild game. Robin Michael gave a highly-polished and exciting performance, and Daniel Tong was every bit the master of the exceptionally complex piano part.

The final piece in this concert of 19th century chamber music was Dvorak’s trio for Piano,Violin and Cello. This work was first performed two months after Dvorak’s baby daughter Josefa had died at only two days old. It must have been written though while the baby was expected because it has no trace of sadness in it rather it is full of hope and happiness, as well as the brooding intensity and nervous energy typical of Dvorak. The piano trio is a wonderful form of music: a triad conversation of such creativity. It is difficult to capture with mere words the beauty and brilliance of this performance by these utterly accomplished musicians, and the resulting feelings of exhilaration as we left in the June sunshine.

By Judy Craven