It was a case of east meets west at the Village Hall, Swineshead recently – east in the form of the piano duo Bing Bing Li (China) and Shio Osaki from Japan. This was, in fact, a return visit for this talented duo and the large enthusiastic audience there to greet them was testimony to the excitement engendered by their previous recital.
The fairly eclectic programme on this occasion featured familiar and seldom performed works. Their opening work, the Beethoven Variations by Saint-Saens owed more to the latter composer than to its originator, as did the ‘Homage to Handel’ by Moscheles. Handel would have been very hard pushed to find much reference to himself.
For the rest of the programme we were on more familiar ground, with works by Rachmaninov (Suite no. 2) and the delicate ‘Wedding Cake’ Caprice by Saint-Saens.
But the best was yet to come. The first part of their programme ended with a stunningly exciting performance of Milhaud’’s rhythmically intoxicating, mischievous
‘Scaramouche’ , always a great favourite, and the grand finale the variations (on a theme of Paganini) by the Polish composer Lutoslawski. This is an incredible ‘tour de force’ – its origin also incredible, for apparently its first performance took place in the Jewish ‘ghetto’ in Warsaw in the early 1940s on two somewhat battered upright pianos, the composer and his friend Andrej Panufnik being the executants.
The executants at Swineshead enjoyed a very different situation, and although they have busy solo and teaching careers, their partnership is uncanny and the rapport almost unbelievable – as the enthusiastic ovation at the end of the evening demonstrated.