Gérard Caussé, viola, Filipe Pinto-Ribeiro, piano
Manoel Theatre

The recital by Gérard Caussé (left) and Filipe Pinto-Ribeiro was quite unusual fare... Unusual because recitals featuring the viola and piano are pretty rare; besides, two of the works performed do not happen to be original works for viola and piano.

The piano’s extremely difficult part was very well-handled, conveying and delivering its part of the deal- Albert G. Storace

The viola, like the bassoon, is the butt of many “orchestra jokes” but has an undeniable importance in instrumental texture, whether in a string orchestra, a full symphony orchestra as well as in more intimate formations such as trios, quartets and quintets for strings.

The literature giving the viola the prominence it deserves is comparatively limited and even if the first work performed, Weber’s Andante e Rondo Ungarese was an original for viola and piano, ironically it is better known in the composer’s later version for bassoon and piano. The masterly interpretation and projection of this work was to establish the duo’s prowess as to technique, balance and musicality.

The viola’s sonorous tone characterised the series of variations in the andante with a richness of sound and maintained a litheness of delivery in increasingly difficulty passages.

The piano chattered away in a warm rapport that found more scope for display with its virtuoso partner in the colourful rondo and its brilliant concluding climax.

Beethoven’s Sonata in A, Opus 69 is much better known in its original version for cello and piano. Although I tend to stick to and prefer an original work, I must admit that I did find the version for viola a different, if quite agreeable and satisfactory one. The warmth of the viola is like an extension of that of the cello. The two instruments maintained a balance and cohesion that was admirable. While the viola had its say in continuous dialogue and interplay with the piano, the latter continued to display a marked mastery of the keyboard which augured extremely well for the next work.

Franck’s Sonata in A, in its original version for violin and piano is a superb masterpiece. Other than in that form the most common “deviation” is that for cello and piano. Hearing a version for viola and piano is extremely rare. I am not saying that this version was not performed with all the necessary commitment and élan, yet much as I tried I could not find the viola quite as effective in conveying the intensely passionate nature of this work.

The piano’s extremely difficult part was very well-handled, conveying and delivering its part of the deal. The viola, which in its higher reaches did at times sound like a violin, conjured up a lot of feeling which at the same time had a dignified restraint about it, maybe a little too much of it.

Generous with encores and on a lighter vein, the duo wittily performed Le Basque, a sprightly dance by Marin Marais followed by a lovely, gentle Sicilienne by Maria Theresia Paradis.

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