Home Hill Winery
Pianist Ying Ho and cellist Jonathan Békés' extraordinary recital was a gift. There was so much to love about this duo it’s difficult to know where to start. They had a unanimity of conception throughout, and an extraordinary level of communication. Both players had a wonderful sense of foreground and background; they switched from one to the other so seamlessly, it almost seemed balletic at times.
Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces opened the programme. Békés and Ho gave us a beautifully understated opening that then seemed to blossom from the heart with beautifully nuanced phrasing, and a wonderful feeling for the sometimes fragmentary nature of the music.
The duo followed this with the 5th movement of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, Praise to the eternity of Jesus. Békés spoke beautifully and profoundly about what it might mean to be writing music from a concentration camp, and as I listened I marvelled at the resilience of the human spirit, that can produce such beauty and religious devotion amidst such adversity. The movement was, in fact, a sort of extended prayer, moving from the intimacy of a whisper to outpourings of heartfelt passion. Both players had an extraordinarily beautiful array of tonal colours at their disposal that seemed to encompass every possible expression of the human condition. Soaring cello phrases underpinned by heavy piano chords added a solemnity that gave a sense of the magnitude of the wartime experience. This was a performance that spoke to my soul.
Tchrepnin’s Cello Sonata no 1 was an intriguing work, very Russian in both character and emotion. There was considerable virtuosity from both players, and much dialogic writing that highlighted their outstanding rapport. Particularly noteworthy was the lower register of the cello, which somehow encapsulated the Slavic essence of the work.
The concert finished with Grieg’s Cello Sonata, an emotionally charged work full of contrasts. It is music on a grand scale and Békés and Ho rose to the challenge in style. They appeared to master the technical difficulties with supreme ease, while the towering emotions were given their full weight, and took the audience on a roller coaster of vividly felt experience.
The most remarkable thing about this young duo was the sense I had that it was really all about the music, and individual egos took a back seat. This is a rare quality in performers, and gives the audience a feeling of truly entering the minds and hearts of composers. This concert was a gift, and I feel truly blessed to have been there.
Jo St Leon
ABC Limelight Magazine, 22 February 2019