Emma Richards (viola) and Duncan Honeybourne (piano), Kendal Town Hall

TO WHAT degree, I pondered during a recent Kendal Midday Concert Club recital, is the enjoyment of a musical performance dependant upon the relationship between it and colour? On this occasion, colour did have a strong influence on my enjoyment for, looking down from the rear circle, the stage possessed a predominantly dark grey shade; true, there was a colourful Christmas tree, but dark, unattractive objects lurked in corners, the Steinway was black and behind, artistically overseeing all, were the roofs of the auld grey town. The elegant but muted colours worn by the artists - Emma Richards (viola) and Duncan Honeybourne (piano) – could not contribute to my desire for ‘excitement’. Also, the viola is a beautiful, but dark-toned instrument and thus something other than the bright shafts of autumnal sunshine that occasionally illuminated the stage was required to create my desired ‘excitement’. The prevalent greyness dominated and I found the whole experience strangely underwhelming. Furthermore, highly-skilled musicians though they undoubtedly are, I found their partnership to be rather mismatched; whilst Duncan frequently showed his commanding and powerful but, in this context, often over-percussive soloistic qualities, Emma demonstrated her penchant for the more inward-looking approach.

All that having been said, there was much to admire and enjoy in their performances. Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata D 821 saw them in complete sympathy with the composer’s demands for smoothly-flowing lines and seamless phrasing. Balance weaknesses sometimes marred the louder passages, but the slow movement and quieter moments elsewhere illuminated their fine musicianship and feel for the lyricism so characteristic of Schubert.

Britten’s Lachrymae Op 48 is a work whose widely-varying textures were explored and projected with beautiful attention to detail. Always were they aware of the beauty of Britten’s subtle writing.

Pianistic power (albeit at times too explosive!), Romantic technical glitter and heartfelt emotion were all present in Enescu’s Konzertstück. This is an unfamiliar work, the performance of which, despite occasional intonation and balance miscalculations, brought out the best of both artists.