Sophie Solomon, Bush Hall, London
Wednesday 15 March 2006
As she whirled over to duet with the accordionist, there was a risk she'd stride right off the stage, though to call herself clumsy as she did during one pause was several shades too self-deprecating. The precision of her playing is anything but clumsy, and it's the intensity of her relationship with the violin that accounts for her charisma
Solomon is one of those musicians who don't fit the usual boxes. There's nothing in English violin traditions to bridge the gap between folk and classical music, and she has delved into continental styles to create an effective language for herself with a real continuity between extremes. Classically trained, she has a restless, semi-improvisatory manner that allowed her to make her name in a world music context.
As a soloist she now commits herself to being more dependent on the strength of her material. Her support band is acoustic and several numbers feature lilting, nostalgic tunes with an East European flavour.
The best happened to be one of Brahms's Hungarian Dances. But most were her own and they were not disgraced by such company, particularly "Lazarus", which on the album has guest vocals by KT Tunstall, and the slower "Hazy". "Waltz", newly composed, had the audience swaying in rhythm. "Swing", supposedly learnt from gypsies in Budapest, fizzed along at high speed, and a vaguely Middle Eastern groove enlivened both the title number and the finale, "Pin Pricks and Gravy Stains".
Her recitation over the music in "A Light that Never Dies" came across as posh rap - nothing to choose between that and Ralph Fiennes's ironic tones in the recorded version, both of them like a desperate effort not to sound vulgar.
Solomon's physical presence brought the set to life in a way that doesn't happen on CD, yet there was still a well-behaved air.
The most compelling moments were the interactions, when she and a colleague struck sparks from each other. Up front on her own, she's still like one of the band members being allowed to take her turn. The music is all there, but a bit more shameless domination might work wonders.
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