©Harriet Mackenzie/Danny Driver
Harriet Mackenzie violin Danny Driver piano
JS Bach: Sonata in E major BWV1016
Lili Boulanger: D'un matin de printemps
Claude Debussy: Sonata in G minor
César Franck: Sonata in A major
This otherwise wholly French programme begins with one of the six sonatas Bach composed around 1720 while working for Prince Leopold in Cöthen. It’s a truly equal partnership, with constant swapping of material between the instruments. The two slower movements are especially beautiful, as the players weave sensuous spells round each other.
D’un matin de printemps (On a Spring morning) was Lili Boulanger’s last composition before her tragically early death in 1918. It’s an upbeat piece, though not without reflective moments, vividly capturing the changing and mercurial moods of the season.
“An example of what a sick man may produce in time of war” was how Debussy described his Sonata in G minor ― the last work he completed before his death, like Boulanger’s, in 1918. But it would be wrong to expect darkness and despair. There are tinges of nostalgia and an autumnal feel, but the work remains positive and even ends triumphantly. It spans a range of emotions in a short time, with rhythmic vitality and gorgeous harmonies.
Another late work, Franck’s Sonata for violin and piano was written as a wedding present for his fellow musician Eugène Ysaÿe in 1886. It was Ysaÿe’s subsequent championing of the work that cemented Franck’s reputation as a composer. The French musical establishment had hitherto been resistant to thinking of him as anything other than an organist (albeit a very distinguished one). The Sonata deserves its popularity. It’s richly lyrical throughout and full of strong emotion – the recurrent appearance of its beautiful and haunting opening motif firmly anchors the four movements and brings it to its majestic and irresistible conclusion.
We last saw Harriet Mackenzie at Little Missenden in 2019 in a rather different context – as one of the three members of the wonderful Kosmos Ensemble ― but she’s also a busy and renowned concerto soloist who has performed across five continents. Harriet is a committed ambassador for contemporary music, creating a valuable legacy of new works. Apart from her solo career she’s a lover of chamber music and a founder member of both the Kosmos and Karolos Ensembles.
“Searing Intensity… A performance full of panache…. captivating” The Strad
Acclaimed British pianist Danny Driver is recognised internationally as an artist of sophistication, insight and musical depth. He has an enviably broad repertoire spanning works from Bach and Handel to Ligeti and Adès. An accomplished recitalist, he gave four live-streamed recitals from Wigmore Hall (some also broadcast by BBC Radio 3) during lockdown.
“This country is blessed with several exceptional pianists of the younger generation, of whom Danny Driver most assuredly is one” Seen and Heard
Fri 14 Oct 2022 8.00pm
Little Missenden Church
£25, £18, £10