Jian Wang and Bernadette Harvey reviewed in The Australian

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Appealing cello-piano dialogue

By MURRAY BLACK 

The Australian –  July 04, 2013 12:00AM

Jian Wang and Bernadette Harvey
Musica Viva.
City Recital Hall, Sydney, July 1.

THE egalitarian nature of the musical partnership between cellist Jian Wang and pianist Bernadette Harvey was clearly demonstrated by this program: two cello sonatas alongside a solo work for each instrument.

Brahms’s second cello sonata is a work of bold contrasts and drama. Wang and Harvey delivered an impassioned performance. Interpretatively, they balanced reflection with muscular strength. Sustaining excellent dynamic and tempo control, their sensitive cantabile phrasing and resonant sonorities realised the former while incisive rhythms and forceful attack achieved the latter.

Brahms considered the piano an equal partner with the cello in this work. Shifting between foreground and background as the need dictated, Wang and Harvey generated an appealing musical dialogue.

The dramatic intensity of Russian composer Alfred Schnittke’s first cello sonata (1978) is entirely different to the Brahms. It’s like watching a slow-burning fuse suddenly erupt into flames before subsiding into nothingness. Crucial to the success of their performance was the way Wang and Harvey seamlessly negotiated the many abrupt changes of mood, tempo and dynamics. The pianist’s crystalline accompaniment proved the perfect foil for Wang’s often soulful solo lines.

Harvey’s solo contribution opened the concert’s second half. American composer Kevin Puts’s Alternating Current (1997) is a three-movement work in which a pensive slow movement is enclosed by a baroque-inspired opening and a thrilling toccata-like finale.

Puts, a friend of Harvey, describes Alternating Current as her signature tune, and it showed. Her fingers swam assuredly through the dense textural currents of the opening movement, delineating its contrapuntal intricacies. Harvey’s delicate touch and dynamic control enlivened the second movement’s shimmering impressionist-tinged sounds while the finale’s cascades of notes were dispatched with flair.

For his solo offering, Wang chose Bach’s sixth suite for unaccompanied cello. For the most part, tempos were brisk but not driven, vibrato was kept to a minimum and he maintained a lean, focused timbre. Wang also appreciated the character of each movement. However, his impressive account had minor problems: the upper register sound periodically suffered from an abrasive edge and there were moments of slightly unclear articulation in the Prelude.

Canberra, tonight; Melbourne, Saturday; Adelaide, Tuesday; Perth, July 11; Sydney, July 13; Newcastle, July 14.

MUSIC
Jian Wang and Bernadette Harvey
Musica Viva.
City Recital Hall, Sydney, July 1.

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