Luba Tunnicliffe and Gamal Khamis, South Holland Concerts, South Holland Centre, Spalding
Works by French, German, Romanian, Slovakian and English composers were served up by viola player Luba Tunnicliffe and pianist Gamal Khamis in Spalding on Sunday afternoon.
South Holland Centre staged the opening recital in the 34th season of South Holland Concerts which featured a mix of the new, and not so new, in terms of classical compositions.
Luba and Gamal, the latter married to fellow pianist Dina Duisen who performed in Spalding last Spring, opened their programme with Austrian/Slovakian composer Johann Hummel’s Sonata in E flat.
Gamal revealed that while playing the place at home, Dina asked “Is that Mozart?” which Luba described as “probably the ultimate compliment” for Hummel’s work.
German Georg Telemann’s Fantasia No 2 in C and late English composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s Rondel for solo viola saw Luba play alone, without music notes and completely from memory.
It’s been so much fun to learn these pieces and researching them with Luba, sharing our positive feelings for the music and celebrating thatPianist Gamal Khamis
Then it was Gamal’s turn to “go it alone” in performing two pieces from Claude Debussy’s Preludes Book One which were inspired by what American music academic Brent Hugh called the “eye-opening experience” of the 1899 Paris Universal Exhibition.
Romanian composer Georges Enescu’s Konzertstucke (German for concert piece) allowed Luba and Gamal to show their growing understanding and ability to synchronise whilst playing their respective instruments.
The four movements of Brahms’ Sonata in F Minor concluded the concert, a piece originally composed for the clarinet before being reworked for the viola, much to Luba’s benefit.
There was even time for a short encore in the form of one of Mendelsohn’s cello and piano works, fitted in at the end of an afternoon when Luba and Gamal shared their passion for music with an appreciative audience.
Before the concert, Luba said: “I don’t put concert pieces together as themes but we just thought they would go well together because they are rather contrasting, yet complement each other well.
“My parents (flute player Lisa Beznosiuk and cello/viola da gamba musician Richard Tunnicliffe) were the reason that I came to be interested in music in the first place.
“From my earliest days, it’s all that I knew and I remember being taken on tour when I was very young, sitting at my mum’s feet and just loving the music.
“Nowadays, they are incredibly supportive by coming to all concerts when they can and so I feel incredibly that I’m able to take my music to them.”
Gamal, who studied maths at Imperial College London whilst training as well at the Royal College of Music (RCM), said: “I wanted to be a musician since I was 16 or 17, having studied it since the age of five.
“But my parents we really enthusiastic that I get a degree in sciences so I had music lessons privately at the RCM which is next to Imperial where I was really musically active.
“It was like doing the work of two degrees and although I wouldn’t do it again, if I had to do it now, it was really good for me, as a musician, to have spent time doing something artistic, but in a different way.
“Whilst at Imperial, I wasn’t just surrounded by creative people, but practical people as well.”
Sunday’s concert was only the second time that Luba had performed together, the first occasion having come just nine days earlier for the UK Friends of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Foundation at Hampton Court House in Surrey.
The pair performed almost exactly the same programme of music by Hummel, Telemann, Rodney Bennett, Debussy, Brahms and Mendelssohn.
Gamal said: “We first met in the spring of last year at a course in Cornwall and we got on really well.
“It’s been so much fun to learn these pieces and researching them with Luba, sharing our positive feelings for the music and celebrating that.
“The Hummel piece is one that I’ve not played much before and when I was practicing it at home, my wife asked ‘Is that Mozart?’
“In an ideal world, it’s not that we’re doing our thing and people just happen to be listening.
“Instead, I feel that we’re always responding to the energy of the audience and, hopefully, they respond to our energy as well.”
Review and interview by Winston Brown