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.