Review of Keswick Music Society Concert, Theatre by the Lake – Harriet Mackenzie, violin, and James Boyd, guitar.

The violin and guitar are complementary instruments. The violinist bows the melody, flowing, resonant, singing, with a powerful voice. The guitarist plucks the harmony, rhythmic, complex, with an intimate, thoughtful voice

Harriet Mackenzie was statuesque, every inch a classical virtuoso in her elegant dress. James Boyd seemed, in all aspects, a folk guitarist, until his fingers moved across the strings drawing out the contrapuntal lines that supported the violin’s developing theme in the opening Adagio of Bach’s Violin Sonata in G major. The violin grew in sympathy with the quiet voice of the guitar and there was a sense of deep sadness at the heart of the Largo.

In Paganini’s Cantabile, violin and guitar moved in a seductive dance, the violin’s aspiring song drawing an adoring response from the guitar as both revelled in the beauty of the sound they created together.

James Boyd was alone as he evoked the melancholy that is the Saudade that opens La Catedrale by the Paraguayan composer Augustin Pio Barrios. Later, that sadness found religious consolation in one of the most profound of all works for guitar. 

Guitar and violin were drawn to each other and learned from each other as they explored the distinctive aspects of Spanish melancholy and longing in Manual de Falla’s Canciones Populaires.

Bach’s Andante from the Sonata in A minor for solo violin allowed us to hear the instrument’s emotional inward voice, but the Vocalise by Villa Lobos that followed was as though the richness of Bach had been transported to another continent and another century.

And we stayed in South America, in Argentina, as violin and guitar explored the sensual Histoire de Tango by Astor Piazzolla. The three movements took us from the seedy Bordello of 1900 Buenos Aires to the civilized cafe of 1930 and the cultivated night club of 1960. The players’ virtuosity extended the resources of their instruments creating colourful sounds to evoke the changing atmospheres.

This rich instrumental drama ended with the betrothal dance from La Vida Breve by de Falla where the girl, forsaken by her aristocratic lover, commits suicide.

This was the Music Society’s first concert back in the theatre. We were treated to an evening of complex drama as two very distinctive voices spoke passionately and intimately together. 

Steve Matthews.