Celebrating a cello’s birthday

Tickhill Music Society’s ADRIAN HATTRELL reviews a concert by cellist Tessa Seymour given as part of the group’s 2019/20 season

Tessa Seymour and Xiaowen Shang

AT its recent gathering Tickhill Music Society was invited to celebrate an unusual anniversary – the 300th year of a cello, made in Milan in 1720.

To mark the occasion, cellist Tessa Seymour finished her recital with a sarabande by Bach, composed in the same year.

Tessa is an accomplished young cellist, who has moved to London from her native California to further her career, and whose CV includes the premieres of a number of contemporary works.

But to begin at the beginning, Tessa’s concert at Tickhill was more than usually challenging – flooded roads gave her a circuitous journey from the railway station, and her regular accompanist cried off three weeks beforehand. He was replaced by the equally youthful Xiaowen Shang, and it is fair to say that her muscular accompaniment did not always compliment the more delicate playing of the cellist. This was particularly noticeable in the opening Sonata by Debussy, whose angular composition called for more balanced treatment.

The first half was completed by an early work by Shostakovich, in which the partnership between cello and piano was more at ease, and the dialogue between the instruments was more equable.

The programme finished with a Sonata by Brahms, and here the composer was more sympathetic to the cello, which Tessa exploited to the full, bringing out the sonorous tones of her instrument.

One could say that on this occasion art imitated life, with the American cellist and the Chinese pianist not always comfortable with each other, but one cannot fault their dedication and endeavour, which was warmly appreciated by the audience who had also fought the bad weather to attend.