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