The Norfolk & Norwich festival comes to Diss

Last year, Geneva Lewis performed at the Octagon Chapel in Norwich alongside pianist Evren Ozel, but this time she was flying solo, showcasing the superb sound of a violin constructed by Guadagnini in the eighteen century, and she did so at the Corn Hall, as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival .

The first twenty minutes of her all too brief time on stage was devoted to ‘Bach’s Partita No 3 in E major’, the last work in his set of Sonatas and Partitas, written at a time when solo violin compositions were rarely written. Presented in six movements, her playing displayed a precision and exactitude that brought both clarity and sensitivity to the piece. It was followed by ‘Darshan’, composed by Indian-American Reena Esmail. Based on a Hindustani raag, it brought to mind sounds associated with the sitar and table. The piece was as audacious as the performance was accomplished, flexing the violin in ways that were previously hard to imagine.

My favourite composition of the performance was Andrew Norman’s ‘Sabina’, which absolutely captured the spirit of his inspiration – watching the sun rise from the ancient church of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill. It also showcased Geneva Lewis’s extraordinary virtuosity, as the music moved from barely audible sounds to a frenetic maelstrom of bowing, mimicking the glorious cacophony of a dawn chorus. The concert concluded with Eugène Ysayë’s ‘Sonata in No.5’, written to showcase Ysayë’s skill as a violinist. It would have tested any performer to their very limits, yet Lewis accomplished the work faultlessly.

Self-effacing to the very end, the audience for this intimate concert simply wouldn’t get her go, compelling her to take a bow three times with their emphatic applause. An audible sigh of regret then followed when, rather sweetly, she said “I’m going now” leaving everyone begging for more.