Mathilde Milwidsky (violin) and Annie Yim (piano) at Dorset Museum, Dorchester

  • Robert SCHUMANN Three Romances
  • Claude DEBUSSY Sonata in G Minor
  • Eugène YSAYE Sonata No 3 in D Minor
  • Lili BOULANGER Deux Morceaux
  • BEETHOVEN Violin Sonata in G major No 10 Op 96

When, in spring 2018, I told my music-loving friends that I was leaving London for the depths of west Dorset, many exclaimed “but how will you cope without the Wigmore Hall?!“, knowing that London’s “sacred shoebox” was (and remains) one of my favourite, regular concert venues. When I moved, I was determined to find music down here, and shortly after moving to the Isle of Portland (the southernmost tip of Dorset), I discovered all sorts of music-making, festivals, opera and more. And in autumn 2019, I took over the concert management of Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts, working with the pianist Duncan Honeybourne.

There is, in fact, a feast of music outside the capital, if you know where to find it.

Dorset Museum Music Society, now in its 48th season, presents 6 concerts per year in the wonderful Victorian Hall at Dorset Museum in Dorchester. I’d known about the music society for some time, so it was serendipitous when the pianist Annie Yim invited me to a concert given by her and violinist Mathilde Milwidsky in the beautiful Victorian Hall at the museum.

The concert was well-attended; like the Weymouth lunchtime series which I run, these regional music societies tend to have a loyal local audience. The venue and ambiance were friendly, and the interval wine pleasant.

The music was exceptional. Mathilde has recently been named as a Classic FM Rising Star: 30 under 30 (this is a prestigious shortlist narrowed down by industry experts) and Annie Yim has already established a reputation as a thoughtful and imaginative musician whose programmes showcase lesser-known repertoire and make connections between music and art.

This programme paired two of the greatest sonatas for violin and piano – Debussy’s mercurial and elegiac sonata in G minor, the composer’s last work, and Beethoven’s uplifting Op 96. These works were interspersed with shorter works by Robert Schumann, Lili Boulanger, and virtuoso violinist and composer Eugène Ysaye.

The Romances by Schumann were attractive, contrasting introductory pieces which quickly gave a taste of the talent on display and the mutual understanding between these two musicians. In Debussy’s Violin Sonata. Mathilde and Annie gave us shimmering colours, vibrant rhythms and a clear sense of the music’s poignancy. It’s very much an autumnal farewell, yet its finale is, in the composer’s words, “filled with tumultuous joy” with the violin spinning off into a new episode and the piano following to bring the music to an ecstatic close. It was a wonderfully imaginative and engaging performance.

Two short works by Lili Boulanger followed, somewhat in keeping with the nostalgic nature of the Debussy (Lili Boulanger’s short life was beset by illness and she died in 1918, the same years as Debussy). Here, an elegant, songful nocturne contrasted with a spirited little morceau.

The second half of the concert opened with Ysaye’s Violin Sonata No.3 in D minor, written for solo violin and dedicated to Georges Enescu. It’s a work rich in technical and musical challenges, in two movements but played as a continuous work, almost like a fantasy. Mathilde demonstrated not only fine technique, but a real command of this highly virtuosic piece, bringing to it spontaneity, colour and drama.

Beethoven’s last sonata for violin and piano was composed in 1812 and dedicated to his most favourite pupil, the Archduke Rudolph. A work of serene beauty and lyricism, characterized by its intimate and conversational nature, violin and piano engage in an almost seamless dialogue throughout – the perfect vehicle for these two musician friends who play with such natural understanding and synergy.

There was so much to enjoy in this concert. Mathilde is poised, direct and committed, with understated vibrato and a clean yet warm tone. She was amply complemented by Annie’s sensitivity and glowing, elegant sound. Despite a small grand piano, the shape of the Victorian Hall at Dorset Museum (very nearly a Wigmore shoebox) produced a wonderfully resonant and bright acoustic, well-suited to these fine musicians.