Review: Viktoria Mullova – Peasant Girl; Apex; Bury St Edmunds Festival; Sunday May 20 2012

Recipe: take a renowned Russian concert violinist. Add her husband, a renowned British cellist. So far, so unremarkable.

Then add a well known jazz pianist and two prestigious young percussionists, one playing a marimba, and the other with the most minimalist drumkit you can imagine. Mix in a hefty dose of gypsy influence, a fair amount of Hungarian classical music, plenty of improvisation and a good sprinkling of the 1970s American band Weather Report. On paper it looked as if the result could be the musical equivalent of those dodgy mixes drunk at student parties.

In fact it added up to a charismatic musical cocktail, and one of the most enjoyable concerts in what has proved to be an outstanding Festival. Every item on the programme, bar one, was arranged by cellist Matthew Barley.

Viktoria Mullova played her violin with relaxed brilliance in a variety of styles, and Julian Joseph, the jazz musician and broadcaster, contributed understated gems on the piano. Paul Clarvis and Sam Walton added percussion genius.

The Seven Duos by Bela Bartok, simple dances and song-like melodies were played on the violin and cello, and in between them the other instrumentalists took turns to play delightful short improvisations. As Matthew Barley said – “Every night a world premiere…”

The longest piece of the evening, the Duo op7 by Kodaly was given a stunning performance by Mullova and Barley, with relentless passion, drive and energy. In the second half of this compelling evening all the players had the opportunity to show their creativity and skills as we moved from the hypnotic appeal of Weather Report, through Russian music, to African with gypsy elements – a truly heady and satisfying mix.

Wynn Rees

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