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S & H Recital Review

Bach, Prokofiev, Beethoven Daishin Kashimoto (violin); Konstantin Lifschitz (piano). Wigmore Hall, Wednesday, July 9th, 2003 (CC)

The Japanese sure know how to present a product. Sponsored to the eyeballs by Nikkei, JAL Japan Airlines and The Montcalm Hotel Nikko, London, the Wigmore was packed, predominantly with Kashimoto’s country-people. A handout of promotional material for JAL dwarfed the bilingual English/Japanese free programme (leaflet) with its token couple of paragraphs each on the music we would hear, printed on the back.

Multiple-competition winner Kashimoto has made the laudable decision to soak himself in European ambiance and not make any appearances in his native country for at least two years as of February this year. Laudable because this is intended to bring him closer to the spirit of the music he plays (note: no token Takemitsu here). Konstantin Lifschitz, Kashimoto’s pianist, has appeared as Martha Argerich’s understudy at the Wiener Konzerthaus, performing alongside the likes of Kremer and Maisky.

Given the Japanese audience saturation (made more obvious because the central part of the hall seemed to be almost all Japanese, with non-Orientals around the sides) and the fact this was a violin and piano recital, memories of Takayoshi Wanami’s decidedly mixed January recital came flooding back (only the guide dogs were missing). Fears were confirmed with the Bach (Violin Sonata in C minor, BWV1017). Kashimoto, using very little vibrato, sounded harsh and steely. Despite an evident rapport between the players, it was all too easy to focus on Lifschitz’s playing: consistently interesting, even, limpid of tone and marked by a real staccato that never pecked at notes. Only in the finale did the interplay between the two really take off as Kashimoto warmed into the piece.

Elisabeth Batiashvili and Steven Osborne had presented Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata, memorably, in this very hall in June. Kashimoto and Lifschitz had a lot to live up to, and if they did not erase memories of Batiashvili/Osborne, it was nonetheless a creditable account (although it may well linger in the memory mainly because Kashimoto, inexplicably, left the stage after the second movement for a few minutes, leaving Lifschitz to fiddle with his music for something to do). Kashimoto’s tone was much warmer, his stopping impressive. The bitter-sweet tang of the second movement came across well, although the third movement Andante moved to a new musical level (after Kashimoto’s return: what did he do?). Spectral and fractured, pure and expressive, this made for gripping listening and led to a finale which was full of life. Hope, springing ever eternal, reared her head.

Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata provided an involving second half. Concentration was intense. Kashimoto’s stopping was textbook, Lifschitz shaded chords exquisitely. The dynamic energy of the first movement was palpable (there was even real ‘schwung’ here, although admittedly mainly from Lifschitz). Both players, however, entered Beethoven’s interior world in the second movement: only Lifschitz’s habit of stabbing at accents detracted from the enjoyment of the whole (it stood out all the more as it sounded so uncharacteristic of this player). The tempo alternations of the finale were made to sound intensely radical, and were all the more effective for that. Despite excellent articulation from both players, it was Lifschitz’s contribution that once more remained in the memory.

Perhaps there is a lesson here. No matter how many competitions you have won, do NOT pick a pianist as accompanist who is your superior both technically and musically. Everybody ends up listening to him instead.

Colin Clarke


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