Jack Liebeck and Martin Cousin

Concert date: 15 November 2013
Reviewed by: JRC

Fortunately, Jack Liebeck chose to perform for NADSA, rather than take up an offer to give a concert in Mexico. Jack, no stranger to the BBC, concert halls all round the world, and Hollywood [2013 Oscar nominated for 'Anna Karenina' soundtrack], teamed up with Martin Cousin, a concert globe-trotter himself [and the hands in the film 'Shine'], to give a scintillating concert at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.

The 'Spring' Sonata No 5 by Beethoven was a joyful and melodic opening, its themes seamlessly passed between violin and piano. Then, how wonderful it was to feel such a great change of mood in the second movement where calm expanded, subtly and gradually, with variations of the theme. The scherzo was another adventure, this time into impish playfulness, leading us to a resplendent rondo.

'The Lark Ascending', by Vaughan Williams, followed: one of the most popular and frequently recorded pieces of classical music. So, the huge challenge for live performance by anyone, anywhere, is how to make it come alive – again! It was here that I felt we transcended wonderful music-making to enter an ethereal world. The audience was hushed as the exquisite delicacy of the lark rose amongst us. Never before have I felt so at one with the piano; rarely have I felt vibrato so effectively used as here with the wings of the lark. I felt a bewildering loss; then, 'in pensive mood', my heart flew with the lark's reprise.

After the interval we were treated to a somewhat refined version of a 'Palm Court' experience. The melodies of Fritz Kreisler's 'Love's Sorrow' and 'Lovely Rosemary' were instantly recognisable with a cosy nostalgia, thankfully not tainted by excessive rubato.

The bright and powerful attack of the Elgar Sonata Op.82 took us rather by storm: following themes were delicate and sensitive, leading to a robust ending of the first movement. The second was more familiar Elgar territory, with contrasts of mood from playful to brooding, then a surging climax, followed by delicacy. The Sonata's final movement saw Elgar giving us a variety of themes and styles, with even a hint of 'Owls', that gave Jack and Martin great scope to keep us enthralled to the triumphal conclusion.

Elgar's Chanson de Matin made a well chosen encore, taking us from the tumult of parts of the Sonata to the safety of a simply sublime and melodious pasture. Elgar wrote the tune, but we were very fortunate to be present at this rebirth.

Jack returned to London where his professorial position at the Royal Academy of Music keeps him partially anchored. Martin's next scheduled concert is in Tokyo this month. We hope they both return to Devon soon.