Liebeck & Forsberg

Restraint and extravagance meet in this performance for the young at heart

A light aural penumbra seems to emanate from the 1785 Guadagnini played by gifted violinist Jack Liebeck. It is a beautiful instrument, on this occasion accompanied and enhanced by the Arts Council's Model D Steinway played by the supremely experienced Bengt Forsberg.

Throughout this recital in the Great Hall at Queen's, with the winning duo of Liebeck and Forsberg at the helm, a perfect balance between the two instruments imbues the music with involving intimacy and admirable clarity.

This concert takes inspiration from one of the Festival's sub-themes, American Exiles. Dvorák’s Sonatina is a comparatively lightweight but attractively melodic work. It could almost be 'classical' in terms of scale and structure, but Dvorák’s hallmark harmonies and nationalistic flavours characterise it as resonantly 'romantic'.

The slow movement in particular has all those nostalgic Czech overtones which seeped from his pen during his stay in the States. As BBC Radio 3’s opener for the American Exiles programme, the duo’s performance of the Sonatina is a fine start.

Juxtaposed beside the touching restraint of this Dvorák piece, Korngold’s Sonata seems extravagantly unrestrained. This sonata was conceived in an atmosphere of youthful, romantic abandon, a remarkable outpouring from a mere 15-year old. So much of this piece is an indication of the rich, luscious music which formed the basis of Korngold’s later more famous career as a movie score composer in Hollywood.

Liebeck and Forsberg portray all the teenage heart-on-sleeve excitement of the writing whilst giving a sense of the mature musical mind which was so full of harmonic inventiveness and soaring lyricism.

What a spectrum of emotional colours these two artists produce as a result, from wistful naïveté to burgeoning sensuality, and all with a swash-buckling virtuosity. The two Gershwin/Heifetz encores are a nice touch to end with but to be honest I’d be happy to leave with the Korngold still ringing in my ears.

Check out What's On for information on all events at the Ulster Bank Festival at Queen's.

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