The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Katherine Gowers (violin), Charles Owen (piano)
Composer: Monti, Fauré, Ravel, Gershwin, Debussy, Bloch, Ponce, Krein, Suk, Kreisler, Heuberger, Achron & Hubay
Katherine Gowers’s refreshingly individual take on these delectable violin miniatures triumphantly prevents this recital from becoming just another in the long line of technique fests. Particularly impressive is her playing at low dynamic levels – one of the most hair-raising challenges for any string player, which she passes with flying colours. There are times when she seems to be merely breathing on her instrument. There isn’t the slightest hint of nervous tension as she whispers delicate intimacies in Ponce’s Estrellita, Ravel’s Pièce en forme de habanera and Heuberger’s Midnight Bells.
Gowers’s willingness to takes risks pays dividends time and time again, especially in Monti’s irrepressible Czardas, which in less sensitive hands is often camped up to the rafters. The opening slow section, far from emerging as second-rate Sarasate, captivates the attention with its musical sighs and intakes of breath. The sensitivity of Gowers’s phrasing and subtlety of portamento (a device that she uses intuitively throughout) ripples the goose flesh in Fauré’s Après un rêve, and she gives a deliciously smoky rendition of
Gershwin’s It ain’t necessarily so in which she bends both the notes and the rhythms seductively.
There are also a couple of hutzpah rarities along the way – Yasha Krein’s Gipsy Carnival and Jeno Hubay’s Hejre Kati – and a foot-tapping Bluegrass number (Orange Blossom Special, arranged by Katherine’s composer father, Patrick) to round things off in style. Charles Owen provides typically sensitive and attentive accompaniments, while Andrew Keener and Simon Eadon ensure that everything sounds alluring.