Review: Matthew Barley at the Guildhall, Portsmouth

Cellist Matthew Barley
Cellist Matthew Barley

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A tweak to the order of the programme reaped rich dividends in the final concert of the Portsmouth Chamber Music series promoted by the university.

Cellist Matthew Barley and pianist Alasdair Beaton moved Brahms’s Cello Sonata No 1 to the end, where they were able to relish its ripe, but never self-indulgent romanticism to the full.

This was very much a partnership of equals, of musicians enjoying and responding to each other’s individuality – in capturing the delicacy of the allegretto, in expansively ripe tone and in a fiery finale.

Beethoven’s sonata, Op 102 No 1, billed as the final work, instead ended the first half.

Both players achieved vividly lithe rhythms but Barley also caught the mood of the finale’s sustained notes – quirky bordering bizarre.

The programme began with works by Schumann, where both players proved themselves to be communicators rather than showmen, but the other highlight was Janacek’s Pohadka (Fairy Tale).

Although rhapsodic, it sounded thoroughly cohesive. The cellist revealed the expressive possibilities in pizzicato playing, and the witty throwaway ending was beautifully judged.