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Concert Review: Violin - Harp Duo Maud Lovett and Sandrine Chatron

By John Sidgwick

PARIS, 16 December 1999 - Nineteenth-century music is strewn with so-called easy pieces which are in fact difficult to perform well. The three sonatinas for violin and piano by Franz Schubert are daily murdered the world over by amateurs and they are rarely performed in public by leading artists. It was, however, the third of these sonatinas that the French violinist, Maud Lovett and her harpist partner, Sandrine Chatron, chose to include in their recital at the Conservatoire of the XIIIth Arrondissement in Paris on 9 December.

This excellent duo, recent winners of the Third International Competition for Music with Harp held in Arles (France) under the patronage of the renowned harpist, Marielle Nordman, charmed their audience with their sheer musicianship. Lovett captured all the subtlety and the nuances of the violin part and Chatron succeeded in making her instrument sing, a rare accomplishment.

Although the literature for violin and harp is sparse, it is nevertheless surprising that there are so few duo teams around. The two instruments work admirably well together and there is something appealing about the physical closeness that can be achieved - in the typical violin and piano recital, the violinist can seem small and remote from the pianist at the controls of his massive instrument.

Throughout the evening, Lovett displayed easy virtuosity and a beautiful tone guaranteed by a fluent and elegant bow-arm. She was matched at every moment by her partner and their performance of "Velléda et le coeur de chêne", a four-movement piece illustrating different episodes in a Breton legend, composed by Marcel Landowski in 1998, revealed that the violin-harp duo is an ideal vehicle to convey ideas in contemporary music.

The pair ended their recital with the rarely-heard Fantasie op. 124 by Saint-Saëns, a work which was given its first airing in London in 1907 by Marianne and Clara Eissler. On the evidence of the performance by Lovett and Chatron, this is a piece which deserves to be heard more often and violinists might feel encouraged to include it in their repertoire, even if they have to opt for second-best in the shape of a piano accompaniment.

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