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S&H Recital review

Elgar, Britten, Mozart, Agnew, Tchaikovsky Katherine Hunka violin, Sophia Rahman piano. Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm, 04 January 2002 (SHJ)


 

The Wigmore debut of 27-year old Briton Katherine Hunka revealed a sensitive and assured musician, whose engaging and thoughtfully programmed concert was full of interesting musical ideas.

The all-English first half, beginning with Elgar’s Idylle in G major Op 4 No 1 immediately demonstrated her lyrical tone, and Britten’s Three pieces from Suite Op. 6 - a discreet reminder of Hunka’s acclaimed 1997 première of his Double Concerto –were despatched respectively with wit, desolation and beauty.

In Elgar’s Sonata in E minor, Op.82, an inner subtlety of colour and imagination was always determinable from both Hunka and her outstanding pianist, Sophia Rahman; however, neither performer quite achieved the vitality demanded by the Allegro movements. Once or twice, Hunka’s beautiful tone was subsumed by the piano, and during the first half, a tendency to swell the bow speed mid-stroke produced occasional bulges in the sound.

Post-interval, the clean-cut lyricism and well-defined phrasing in Mozart’s Sonata for piano and violin in C major K303 demonstrated what excellent chamber musicians both Hunka and Rahman are. Mozart’s musical integrity was immaculately preserved through their tasteful and well-proportioned turns of phrase, and Hunka never dominated the proceedings – the duo element of the sonata was evident throughout.

Sophia Rahman’s sympathetic and precise playing came to the fore in Elaine Agnew’s Prologue and Epilogue for violin and piano, a specially commissioned composition of which this was the world première. The many different effects of this engaging piece were well brought out; again, greater exaggeration of contrasts would have made for an even more sparkling performance, but the Prologue and Epilogue’s many juxtapositions were nevertheless played with eloquence and virtuosity. This was one of the highlights of the evening’s recital, and was unanimously well received by the capacity audience.

Katherine Hunka revealed a rich new sonority of sound in Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique op 26 and Valse-scherzo op 34. Perhaps she should have indulged us earlier, as in-between the fiendish technical demands of Tchaikovsky’s music some moments of enormous purity were produced.

Elgar’s Bird of Love was an appropriately restful encore with which to end. This was a recital that, though lacking charisma at times, was a compelling display of duo chamber music.

Simon Hewitt Jones

 


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