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S & H Recital Review

Bach, Prokofiev, Sarasate: Ilya Gringolts (vln) & Ashley Wass (piano), Wigmore Hall, 7th January 2002 (MB)


J S Bach: Sonata No. 2 in A minor BMV 1003

Serge Prokofiev: Sonata No.2 in D major, Op 94a

Pablo Sarasate: Caprice basque Op 24

After Freddy Kempfís lacklustre playing of Bach on the piano (reviewed on 6th January), I had hopes that Ilya Gringoltsí Sonata No. 2 for solo violin would prove a more enticing experience. Regrettably it didnít, and I also found his Prokofiev and Sarasate disappointing, particularly given the fact that Gringoltís first disc on BIS had been received with generally positive reviews. The severity of his stage manner is all but mirrored in his austere playing style which makes little attempt to colour the violin with anything other than shades of black and white. This was drab playing, not helped by a rather removed accompaniment by Ashley Wass at the piano.

His Bach was disfigured by problems of clarity, and this was more evident in the Fuga than anywhere else in the sonata. There are many more double, triple and quadruple notes to master here than in the other movements and the slow tempo evidently made them more exposed than they need be. Gringolts was certainly more at home in the spread chords of the opening Grave, although he all but ignored Bachís rest marks, and his playing of the demisemiquavers in both movements was less assured than it might have been. A very short bow length gave his tone a rather shallow sound and the very few dynamic markings which Bach points to in the Allegro were indecipherable from the main thrust of Gringoltsí playing.

The Prokofiev had considerable beauty of tone Ė sweet and brooding in equal measure. Yet, this performance lacked charisma and Gringolts didnít really make this work disturbing enough, with dotted rhythms rather half-heartedly materialising. As if to push the point, Ashley Wass was under-powered in the ostinato passages of the allegro, as Gringolts was in the arpeggios. His double stopping and pizzicato lacked resolve. The Sarasate did not lack virtuosity, but it was earthbound Ė more a vehicle for Gringoltsí undoubted ability to play rapid bow and left-hand pizzicato passages, rather than endow the work with a genuine Spanish feeling.

Marc Bridle


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