Houstoun and Watkins honour Maurice Till
Duet recital, Christchurch Arts Festival, 28 August 2011
Reviewer: David Sell
The Press, 29 August 2011
'Everything was right for this event, except for those who couldn't get in. A sold-out concert of duets played on the late Maurice Till's piano by two of his most renowned students in a venue of character and buzz had to be a great occasion.
The inspiration, as Michael Houstoun said, was the lessons he had with Maurice Till that would carry on till midnight, after which they would sight-read duets. The fun and commitment of learning with Till is something Sarah Watkins also endorsed as a major influence on her career.
The programme consisted of four of those duets, introduced by the pianists, who set the scene and projected it into (sic: into it?) nostalgia laced with plenty of fun.
If Debussy and Faure were capable of composing trifles, their Petite Suite and Dolly Suite respectively were those. The collections of short pieces illustrated their composers' skills at making musical gems of the highest standard.
Between these was the one substantial work, Schubert's Allegro in A minor, a strong, dramatic work. The duo finished their concert with two of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, in E flat (actually E minor) and A flat.
Playing duets produces its own difficulties, especially of precision and coordination. As Houstoun pointed out, some composers were not good pianists and, in this case, Dvorak made things awkward for the performers.
These two, however, played with wonderful precision and, despite Houstoun's comment at one stage about getting their chords together, gave us 90 minutes of brilliant music.
This was a concert that converted memories of a great musician and teacher into a future that is positive and very much alive.'
(Comment: Actually the programme came in at a little under an hour, in case anyone reading this thinks we've found extremely long versions of the various works. Re precision, my comment was "we love it when we play our chords together", provoked by the fact that we were in fact doing just that, something neither of us could ever take for granted. It was a very lovely event. MH)