Thomas Gould and Ksenija Sidorova

The British violinist and Latvian accordionist join forces for a Late Night Classical Cafe at St George's, Bristol

Thomas Gould and Ksenija Sidorova

A 'late night classical café'. Well, not to split hairs, it was 8.30pm, and a concert hall rather than a café. But, as the gently humorous violinist Thomas Gould explained, at the very least this informal hour-long format gave him ‘an opportunity to wear some imitation leather’. Cue an ‘Oh I say’ from a nearby audience member. And the St George's ‘café’ (drinks allowed) proved to be just the thing for a wintry evening: an hour of amiable, impressive and heartwarming music-making, and a fine introduction to the scope of an instrument still not that often heard in the concert hall – the classical accordion.

Behind the magic box was Latvian Ksenija Sidorova, whose dexterity, articulation and musical sensitivity showed off what glorious and varied sounds the accordion is capable of making as she took on roles generally assigned to piano, harpsichord or bandoneon. Gould is a lyrical, warm and pure player; seemingly laidback but clearly incredibly focused, and not without a touch of the showman. They make a great team: smiling all the time, chatting with ease to the audience and obviously delighting in the music.

Best was the Bartók Romanian – ‘Hungarian, Transylvanian, look it up on Wikipedia', suggested Gould – Folk Dances. There were eerie harmonics and seductive slides from Gould, purposeful rhythmic drive from Sidorova, and gypsy flair from both. They seemed utterly at ease in the smoky tango world of Piazzolla, too, in his Café 1930 and Oblivion. Bach posed different challenges, of a contrapuntal kind. In the G major Sonata, BWV 1019 the accordion sounded like a chamber organ, with Sidorova making light work of the music’s different voices. The neo-classical airs and graces of Alfred Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style were tastefully done – too tastefully, perhaps, as even when the modernist Schnittke, dissonant and acerbic, broke through in the final movement, it was all safely beautiful. Still, the pair ended on a high: Monti’s Czardas, performed with playfulness, bravado and swagger. It was a perfectly judged final number.




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