Loud cheers echoed through the National Gallery when Helmut Braunlich and Neil Tilkens closed their recital last night with Roberto Gerhard's 1966 "Gemini," one of the Catalan composer's most intriguing instrumental works.
It is not free from academicisms, but it is gripping. The first movement, perversely titled "Calmo," begins with the piano mimicking what recalls a failing heart beat, revived in a phrase by Tilkens' hands inside the piano. Braunlich's aloof but awesome techinique was clearly committed to the idiom, and Gerhard's disconcerting duo was effectively served.
In a lovely Sonata in E minor by Johann Jakob Walther, there were into-nation crises that might have been forgiven in a warmer performance. But in Schubert's ecstatic and seldom played Fantasy in C major, there was dignity from the piano's murmurs and some exquisitely sustained high passages on the violin.
The most interesting of Bach's unaccompanied partitas, the D Minor for solo violin, was relentlessly rigid and at times unattractive. Still, it was a triumph of Braunlich's will that his elegant chasing after the pitch never got in the way of the audience's enjoyment. It was a forceful evening of violin playing.