Gemma Rosefield and Tim Horton, Shaftesbury Chamber Music Series at Port Regis School.

1309_tim_cr._benjamin_ealovegaYESTERDAY afternoon’s recital by Gemma Rosefield and Tim Horton was the third in the current Shaftesbury Chamber Music series.

The series always promises music of the very highest calibre and artistic director Ruth Rogers is to be congratulated once more in her choice of artists. Cellist Gemma Rosefield, justifiably described by the Evening Standard as a phenomenal talent was making a welcome return to Shaftes­bury, this time accompanied by Tim Horton on piano, whose dazzling technique made one green with envy!

Beethoven’s Judas Maccabeus Variations which opened the concert were written in 1796 when the composer was in Berlin, and published the following year. The theme, written by Handel of course and probably best known to English audiences as the hymn Thine be the Glory, is one of Beethoven’s most popular early pieces – interestingly published without an opus number (hence Wo0) – and although it is generally accepted that the work’s chief priority was to show off the composer’s dexterity as a pianist, the twelve variations are certainly more than capable of throwing up examples of the composer’s developing dramatic style. The writing calls for controlled, virtuoso playing by both cello and piano and in yesterday’s performance, moments of high drama were beautifully contrasted with episodes of youthful playfulness and great warmth.

The second work, Grieg’s Sonata in A minor (Op 36), written in 1882-3, almost one hundred years after the Beethoven, is his only work for this combination. Unlike the Beethoven, it is mature work and, judging by yesterday’s performance, deserves to be far better known. The sonata is in three movements and from the outset is unmistakably Grieg. The first movement, with its streams of melody for both piano and cello, was as full of joy and freshness as one could wish. The andante molto tranquillo that followed was filled with emotion employing harmonies that could only have been written by Grieg, although it soon became clear that all was not quite as sugary sweet as the opening melody would suggest. The final movement, the longest of the three began quietly enough but concluded with a lively and brilliantly played Norwegian dance.

The shortest work in the programme was Dvorak’s Silent Woods in the composer’s own arrangement for cello and piano. Originally conceived in 1883 as a piano duet, it is thus contemporary with the Grieg although the arrangement for cello and piano was not written for a further seven or eight years. The original Czech title “Klid” has various translations, such as peace, serenity, calm, rest, quiet and stillness, an atmosphere completely captured by both Gemma Rosefield and Tim Horton with the beautifully controlled dynamics of Dvorak’s long opening phrases being particularly lovely.

gemma_02_175pxThe final work was Mendelssohn’s passionate Sonata No. 2 in D (Op 58) – not in D minor as our otherwise excellent programme notes would have had it. Composed in June 1843, the work, has four movements. The first, in a confident and joyous 6/8, was full of lively energy, particularly in the piano, while the second was a playful scherzando, the performers really capturing the essence of Mendelssohn’s style, with much delightful pizzicato playing from the cello. It is the third movement, an adagio, that generally attracts most comment with its Bach-like chorale phrases, played in graceful arpeggios by the piano, contrasting markedly with the cello’s recitative passages which often have a certain Jewish feel about them. Whether or not the movement is a window into Mendelssohn’s soul reflecting an inner turmoil over his religious beliefs is a matter for conjecture, but in Rosefield and Horton’s hands the result was most moving. The mood lightened considerably thereafter however, and the sonata’s sparkling finale finished fast and furious.

The performers had a fine rapport with one another and succeeded in establishing one with their capacity audience too. It is to be hoped that Shaftesbury gets the chance of hearing more of them in the future.


The next concert in the series is on 13th March and features the Elias String Quartet. For details telephone Juliet Rogers on 01747 852789 or e-mail

Posted in Reviews on .