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S & H Concert Review

Schumann, Shostakovich, Beethoven Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Enrico Pace (piano). Wigmore Hall, Wednesday January 15th, 2003 (CC)



The young violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann brought playing of sophistication and insight to the Wigmore Hall in this fascinatingly programmed recital. The lengthy first half provided its fair share of challenges: neither Schumann’s Third Violin Sonata in A minor, WoO27 (1853) nor Shostakovich’s Violin Sonata, Op. 134 (1968) are in any way straightforward for either player or listener.

The genesis of Schumann’s Third Sonata is a story in its own right. The Intermezzo and Finale served as the composer’s contribution for the famous composite ‘greeting sonata’ for Joachim (with Brahms supplying the scherzo and Schumann’s pupil Albert Dietrich composing the opening movement). Schumann elected to ‘complete’ his own sonata, adding two further movements – however, this piece was not published until as late as 1956! Full marks to Zimmermann and Pace for including it here (interestingly, Joshua Bell and Ana-Maria Vera will also present this piece at the Wigmore on January 30th).

There was little doubt of Zimmermann and Pace’s enthusiasm in their account and the amount of preparation that obviously went into this performance secured an impressive experience. They avoided the temptation to over-emote in the first movement and brought bright and lively rhythms to the Scherzo. The highlight came with the Intermezzo, however, which was simply sublime. Here the players demonstrated a great warmth of expression, especially Zimmermann: unfortunately this only served to emphasise the somewhat literal opening of the Finale.

The Shostakovich was far and away the triumph of the evening. The Violin Sonata was intended as a 60th birthday tribute to David Oistrakh, who gave the ‘official’ première in Moscow in May 1969 (with Sviatoslav Richter at the piano: what an occasion that must have been!). Both Zimmermann and Pace were on top form: perhaps the difficulties, interpretative and technical, brought with them that extra yard of concentration. Zimmermann bared his tone down to a minimum over the piano’s initial stark octaves to create a harrowing atmosphere. He was almost motionless as he played, further adding to the ghostly effect. Pace came into his own in this piece, seemingly inspired by Shostakovich’s demands (not least in the Passacaglia last movement). The relentless scherzo, under the seemingly but misleadingly innocuous marking of ‘Allegretto,’ seethed with energy.

After such an overwhelming performance it was perhaps inevitable that Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in C minor, Op. 30 No. 2 after the interval should come as a bit of an anti-climax. There was nevertheless much to admire here in Pace’s pearly, scalic articulation and Zimmermann’s sweet tone. The cheeky Scherzo was a delight. The A flat Adagio cantabile was beautifully serene: the players had the audience hanging on every note. Perhaps, surprisingly, the Finale seemed to need that extra bit of élan (maybe the Shostakovich had drained the players?). Whatever the case, this was a memorable recital. I would, incidentally, be very interested to hear Enrico Pace in solo recital . He is obviously a player of no mean musicality.

Colin Clarke


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