Communication is key in ensemble playing. The musicians at this delightful recital had it in spades. Duo Y-squared began proceedings with Brahms’ Sonata for cello in F. Whilst a fellow audience member protested that this is ‘not a very Brahms-ish piece’, there can be no doubt that he wrote it and Yelian He and Yasmin Roe’s rendition was executed with vigour and flair. My favourite movement in this piece is the ‘Adagio Affettuoso’. My discontented neighbour could not deny that this had Brahms’ trademarks stamped all over it, from the slightly dissonant pizzicato at the beginning, to the luxuriant passages in the cello’s higher register, to the aching F minor progressions towards the end of the movement. Next came the Allegro Passionate, in which the piano part added an almost oom-pah rhythm. Having started with an ‘Allegro Vivace’, the Sonata screamed to an end with the ‘Allegro Molto.’ There was a moment where He looked close to falling off his chair, such was the flourish with which he outstretched his cello, but he remained seated until he and Rowe’s triumphant bow.
Next came New Zealand’s Rothko Quartet, playing Dvorak’s ‘American’ Quartet in F. This beautiful composition evokes cowboys, indians and little houses on the prairie in melodies that often come across more as those of folksongs than classical pieces. The quartet played it beautifully, with smiles and looks between themselves ensuring a beat was never missed and suiting the call and response motifs perfectly.
‘This is the thirteenth show I’ve seen here and there hasn’t been a dud one yet,’ a man told me over tea and shortbread after the recital. It seems the Royal Overseas League’s winning streak refuses to stop short of excellence.