S&H Recital  review

Marat BISENGALIEV (violin) with Benjamin FRITH (piano) Brahms, Elgar etc. Wigmore Hall 4 May 2001 (PGW)

This sparsely attended recital was of particular interest because Marat Bisengaliev, who is famous in his native Kazakhstan and has been acclaimed on his international travels, plays with an old fashioned, intensely expressive style, with plenty of portamento, more like the nineteenth and early twentieth century virtuosi.

His idiosyncratic programme began worryingly, but all too conventionally, with an 'interpretation' of the Vitali Chaconne which was wayward, and light years away from 'authentic' 18 C. violin playing that we have now become used to. Bisengaliev played with romantic intensity, smooth legatissimo and generous vibrato throughout, but he was ill at ease and his playing ill-tuned and untidy. Benjamin Frith seemed not to know what to do with the 'piano part' in the old edition provided.

But all came right quickly after that unfortunate start, and they settled down together into an affectionately phrased account of the most genial of the Brahms Sonatas (Op.100 in A major) which was totally in style and completely absorbing. Then there were a couple of unaccompanied show-pieces by Tarrega and Milstein, before Frith returned to support the soloist with pointed wit in Wieniawski's Valse Caprice. So we had had our encores before the interval!

The second half was devoted to 10 - too many - of Elgar's salon pieces, of which Marat Bisengaliev has made a speciality. They suited him perfectly, and Frith was far more than a dutiful accompanist (his alert and perfectly judged piano playing delighted me throughout the evening, and contrasted markedly with the disappointment of belatedly hearing live the feted, hyped Piotr Anderszewski in the same hall on the following evening). Bisengaliev souped up Salut d'amour, Chanson de matin etc in just the right manner, playing on one of Elgar's own violins, on which he has also recorded all that music with Benjamin Frith on two CDs released by Black Box (BBM1016 and BBM1047).

I have reviewed a CD by Marat Bisengaliev's nephew Amir, who is joined by his uncle in some two-violin duets (BBM1042).

A Latter-Day Ysaÿe, an in depth interview of Marat Bisengaliev by Martin Anderson, can be read at http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/anderson/bisengaliev.html.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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