Even the most passionate violinists and viola-players would hardly claim that the duo repertoire for their instruments is particularly distinguished. Take away arrangements of pieces originally intended for other forces, and the number of genuinely worthwhile pieces expressly intended for violin and viola without the support of a keyboard or a bass instrument shrinks further, though Benjamin Baker and Timothy Ridout included two of the best of that small list in their lunchtime recital.
Mozart’s B flat Duo K424 was one of two that he composed in Salzburg in 1783 to complete a set of six that Michael Haydn (younger brother of Franz Joseph) had been unable to finish, while Martinů’s Three Madrigals for violin and viola, were in turn inspired by Mozart’s examples. As Baker and Ridout showed, both composers treat the two instruments as equal partners. In the set of variations that ends the Mozart duo in particular, Ridout made the most of the opportunities that are given to the viola, while in the Martinů their playing was wonderfully unanimous, so that the two instruments sometimes seemed to become a single musical entity.
An early piece by Sibelius, a duo that he composed for a couple of his students, separated the Mozart and Martinů, and the Sarabande and Variations on a Theme by Handel by Johan Halvorsen, a younger contemporary of Grieg, followed them. There was not much substance in either work, and Baker and Ridout could never quite dispel the feeling that such a programme did not really demonstrate what fine young string players they both are.
• Available on BBC Sounds and Wigmore Hall live. The Wigmore Hall lunchtime series continues on Radio 3 until 26 June.