The youthful duo, British Violinist Thomas Gould and Latvian accordionist Ksenija Sidorova took to the stage at the intimate St George’s Concert Hall for a more relaxed ‘Late Night Classical Café’. These two have been playing together for the last four years and the combination of violin and accordion was natural and effortless. They proved that a concert doesn’t need to be enormously fussy, but must demonstrate good quality playing and most importantly, enjoyment of the music.

Ksenija Sidorova and Thomas Gould © Ksenija Sidorova
Ksenija Sidorova and Thomas Gould
© Ksenija Sidorova

The evening had an informal atmosphere as a late evening event that lasted just over an hour with no interval. Gould announced that this informal atmosphere was “a good excuse to wear imitation leather”! Each piece in the programme was introduced to the audience with a bit of context. The choice of pieces in the programme contained something for everyone. There was Bach’s Sonata for Violin and Keyboard in G for the traditionalists, Alfred Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style for the modernists and the infamous Vittorio Monti’s Czardas for the gypsy rhythms that we were all craving, interjected with Piazzolla and Bartók for a little bit of exotic spice. The Bach and Schnittke would not have been sorely missed from the recital, simply because the pieces had a contrasting pace to the rest of the evening. The concert picked up its energy from Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances and held it throughout, where the pieces were more interesting until the end of the night.

Bach on the accordion was an impressive feat for the novelty factor of instrument choice. It had a curiously traditional organ-like quality to the sound, which made more sense after Sidorova explained that she had a modern, post-1960s accordion that doesn’t just play chords in the huge range of left-hand buttons, but also singular notes allowing for a greater flexibility in playing technique. Sidrova was fascinating to watch on stage. The dexterity of her hands peaked in Monti’s Czardas where the runs were performed at lightning speeds. As the well-known piece of the evening, Czardas received a roaring response. This was unsurprising considering the humor and delicacy injected into Gould and Sidorova’s performance of the piece. Sidrova stood up half way through and the pair walked around the stage in a play-off as the variations got increasingly complex. At one point Gould even whistled the end of a variation whilst still playing, much to the audiences delight.

The friendship between the two instrumentalists was fundamental to their successful performance. Rather than showing off against each other, they worked together and bounced musical ideas in between them. From an audience perspective, it was easy to see their relaxed nature together on stage that made the whole hall at St. George’s feel at ease. As Gould also performs with a swing band, the traditional boundaries of formal classical concerts have already been broken for him and his presence on stage reflected that. Gould’s flexibility between different genres of music also lent itself well to the more sultry Piazolla pieces, Café 1930 and Oblivion, in which Gould paid special attention to the more lenient tempi of the Argentinian composer’s music. Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances was one of Gould’s best performances of the evening. The haunting enharmonic melody over slow-paced chords on the accordion in one of the middle dances was a memorable moment of the evening. It was clear that the two performers were both effortless masters of their instruments.

The standing ovation, stomping and shouts of “bravo” from the audience at the end of the concert were telling of a successful evening. This was responded to with an encore of Richard Galliano’s La Valse a Margo, played standing up with the eight pages of cello-taped music haphazardly stretched across two music stands, summing up the sense of fun in this young duo.