The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Glowing interpretations of some recent British chamber music
Musicians: Nicky Spence (tenor) Chamber Domaine/Thomas Kemp (violin)
Composer: Turnage

This fascinating and beautifully played collection (available in various file formats as a download only) brings together recent contrasting chamber works by Mark-Anthony Turnage, several with prominent string elements. The star of the show is the young British violinist and conductor Thomas Kemp. He directs highly persuasive performances of Turnage’s love-themed song cycle A Constant Obsession (2007) and the Led Zeppelin-inspired Grazioso! (2009), drawing precise, elegant playing that’s high on expressivity from his Chamber Domaine ensemble.

But it’s as a player that Kemp really comes into his own. He displays a remarkable variety of tone in the violin-and-piano Four Chants (2008) in playing that’s lyrical yet assertive, and there’s a real sense of sincerity to his glowing interpretations. It’s a shame he didn’t let his hair down more in the burlesque-style fourth movement, but elsewhere there’s an admirable simplicity and seriousness to his playing.

Kemp is joined by cellist Adrian Bradbury and pianist Andrew West for Turnage’s beguiling piano trio A Slow Pavane (2004), written for the Beaux Arts Trio, and the two string players are ideally matched in their phrasing, vibrato and intensity. The work’s closing moments, where strummed strings meld with chiming piano chords, are truly magical. Violist Nick Barr joins the trio for the piano quartet Three for Two (2010), where he delivers a heartfelt solo in the second movement. Recorded sound is warm and generous throughout.

David Kettle