A sudden last-minute cancellation is not what you want at the start of a concert series, but that's what the first of this year's lunchtime recitals at Derby Cathedral had to contend with. Fortunately, the Cathedral's new Director of Music Alex Binns and his violinist wife, Dora were on hand to fill the gap - Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 10 May 2019.
The repertoire for violin and organ is clearly more extensive than I realised, given a little tweaking. The tweaking is what enabled them to start with a Praeludium in E minor, the larger of the two in that key by late-seventeenth-century composer and multi-instrumentalist Nicholaus Bruhns. A sectional piece on Buxtehude lines, it was meticulously laid out, the textures of the fugal passages crystal-clear. Dora Binns took over the melody line in one of the lyrical sections, a nod to stories of Bruhns playing the violin to his own organ pedal accompaniment.
Alex then moved to the Cathedral's small chamber organ for the second movement of J S Bach's A minor Violin Concerto, complementing Dora's focused tone, sweet but not cloying, calm and poised. Back at the main Compton organ for William Lloyd-Webber's quasi Elgarian Benedictus and Marco Enrico Bossi's Adagio, Alex enjoyed the rich sonorities, while Dora was fully able to project her sound without appearing to.
In normal circumstances a succession of romantically sweet-toothed slow pieces would be a bit much, but given the hasty set-up, we can overlook this for once. David Bednall's Marian Suite began by maintaining the mood, with its tranquil opening movement followed by a flowing siciliana. The concluding 'Ave Maris Stella', though, is a big splashy toccata, in which organ opened up, while still leaving space for the violin to come through.
It was an impressive - though necessarily low-key - joint local debut. We can look forward to these two having an impact well beyond Derby Cathedral's walls.
Copyright © 23 May 2019