Jamie Walton and Benjamin Martin in Recital: Melbourne Recital Centre

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Published: 17th June, 2009

Jamie Walton and Benjamin Martin in Recital: Melbourne Recital Centre There were three fine “players” in this performance in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall: the cellist Jamie Walton, pianist Benjamin Martin – and the hall itself, which continues to delight as Melbourne’s best venue for chamber music. A frosty Monday night would not seem an opportune time for such a concert but word had evidently got around that this one was not to be missed – and not just for the deservedly popular works. After all, every one of them has been recorded many times over! Beethoven was an excellent choice to begin. The Cello Sonata in G minor, Op.5,No.2 is a full-bodied work well suited to Jamie Walton’s 1712 Guarneri. Benjamin Martin, seated at a Steinway Grand, played with a shade more restraint than necessary, as if reluctant to unleash the power of his instrument – happy to (literally) take a back seat throughout the concert. This is my one criticism, although I understand that Martin was motivated by respect. Nevertheless, the duo was a good match, as indicated first in the Beethoven opening Adagio, with the “dialogue” in the dotted-note scales particularly pleasing. The Allegro which followed was certainly “molto” for the piano, Martin’s hands racing easily over the keys as Walton made the melody sing. The piano then introduced the light-hearted theme of the final Rondo, and the work ended with a fine balance between the players. Martin’s confident attack, followed by Walton’s assertive statement, opened the next work, the Cello Sonata in D minor by Debussy. Both musicians seemed at ease with the complex rhythms of this movement and the pizzicato sound of the second, Serenade. If there was not dialogue, there was counterpoint – and an exciting “race” towards the end of the movement. The Chopin Introduction and Polonaise Brilliant in C was to be played after interval but – to the delight of the audience – Walton and Martin chose to finish the first half of the concert with it. All the lyricism and beauty of this composer seemed distilled into this work, dominated by the rhythm of the polonaise. Perhaps because of the equal importance of the piano part, I felt the two instruments were perfectly melded. You would have to go a long way to hear a finer performance than this was. Now standing as the only scheduled work after interval, Rachmaninov’s Sonata in G minor had the stature of a symphony, its “Russian-ness” conveyed by cellist’s warm and sensitive performance. And at last, the piano was given music of similar depth, with some of the chords reminiscent of Rachmaninov’s famous works for that instrument. In both the Lento and spirited final Allegro mosso, the duo showed both their instruments and, more importantly, their mastery of them, to perfection. It was a performance well worth braving the cold to experience! Jamie Walton and Benjamin Martin in Recital: Melbourne Recital Centre Performed June 15th.