Dr Philip Lane review of the recital by Emma Shephard and Gavin Sutherland at Christ Church Cheltenham on Saturday 14th February 2015.

The Valentine's Day recital in the Christ Church Coffee Concerts series was given by violist, Emma Sheppard and pianist, Gavin Sutherland before a knowing and appreciative audience. The all English programme had a suitable whiff of 'love' about it, although not necessarily always amorous in the conventional sense; it was as much a showering of love by composers upon the much maligned viola as anything else. At least two of them were players, of varying abilities - Vaughan Williams for fun, Eric Coates as an early career. The former's contribution was introduced as the viola's 'Lark Ascending', more in spirit than in content as the melodic lines hovered and swooped accordingly albeit on a smaller plane than its violin companion. The Coates was typical of its composer, with a strong lyrical line full of heartfelt emotion, here more guided towards its dedicatee, and Coates' teacher, Lionel Tertis than any fresh-faced maiden.

The Four Pieces Op 42 of Robin Milford were a typical and refreshing example of his work, vaguely neoclassical in some of its spareness, but with true romantic feelings distilled into well contrasted vignettes, and beautifully suited to the instrument. It was played assuredly, with fine shaping of the phrases and an easy feel of ebb and flow overall. As were the four movements of William Alwyn's Sonatina no 2, ranging from martial insistence to delicate filigree work in the central Air and Dance. The original title of Suite is probably still more apt than its final one in terms of form and feeling.

The recital was completed by a work by the duo's pianist, written for them and reflecting the idea of two intermingling voices in the same way as two dancers would work their magic on stage - a familiar view to the composer on a daily basis. The gently litling lines were beautifully captured and the whole recital demonstrated a clear  understanding between the players which in turn drew a particularly warm response from the audience.