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S & H Recital Review

Beethoven, Ysaÿe, Prokofiev, Wieniawski, Chloë Hanslip (violin) and Itamar Golan (piano), Wigmore Hall, Tuesday 23rd March 2004 (AN)

Sonata No.5 in F Op.24 (‘Spring’)
Beethoven Romance in F Op.50
Ysaÿe Poème Elégiaque
Prokofiev Sonata No.2 in D Op.94a
Wieniawski ‘Faust’ Fantasy Op.20


If my eyes hadn’t told me otherwise, I might have seriously doubted that there was only one violinist delivering this Wigmore Hall recital. The Chloë Hanslip before and after the interval were completely different musical animals – the former was nervous and desperately inaccurate whereas the latter sparkled with confidence, energy and wit. The irony of this situation is that as the music became more difficult, the performance improved considerably.

Miss Hanslip looked rather elegant in a long shimmering aquamarine dress and sparkly drop earrings. The covering page of the concert programme placed a complimentary Strad quote ("The future belongs to Chloë Hanslip") besides a radiant picture of the casually perched violinist with instrument in hand. Expectation was running high.

But as soon as bow hit string the picture changed. A very sharp and shaky opening pitch set the tone of the glorious ‘Spring’ sonata and the ‘Romance in F’ that followed. Notes were fudged and the violin accompanying figurations were coarsely manipulated and altogether uneasy and contrived. The pianist, Itamar Golan, did not help either. His subdued contribution bore little support to the struggling violinist and there was no gear change felt at any juncture to propel the piece out of its painful insipidness. For instance, the opening movements interesting junction launching the development was passed over without comment. And again throughout the Adagio molto expressivo a severe lack of momentum and shading failed to excite any profound sentiments. The Scherzo, although accurately executed, lacked any charm and the concluding Rondo was littered with intonation discrepancies and a distinct lack of control from Miss Hanslip on the one hand and character from Mr Golan on the other. Sadly, the Romance suffered from more of the same.

Ysaÿe’s Poème Elégiaque, a sensuous piece rich with colour and expression, was definitely an improvement on the preceding items. Some excellent technical stretches camouflaged any careless mistakes.

Fortunately, the concert was saved by the interval. Miss Hanslip reinvented herself for the evening’s second instalment. She was obviously much more comfortable with the music – her audaciously cheeky body language spoke for her renewed confidence. Particularly impressive was the Prokofiev Sonata’s Allegro con brio which Miss Hanslip delivered with the utmost precision - her energy was relentless. It is perhaps telling that the only disappointments in the middle movements were the more tender passages that at times exposed a forced sincerity.

Ending on the Wieniawski was shrewd programming: this was Miss Hanslip’s best performance of the evening. Here she was utterly in control with flawless scalic passages and unflinching virtuosic flair – she was so convincing that the audience broke into applause half way through! The life and spirit of this dynamic piece was echoed in her ambitious encore, Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy, an incredibly athletic derivative of Bizet’s famous opera. These last two performances were miles apart from the less satisfying opening.

Miss Hanslip has an impressive track record. Now in her 17th year she is not a stranger to prestigious venues, with a Purcell Room solo performance at four years of age and appearances at both Carnegie and Royal Albert Halls shortly after. Certainly, the histrionics of this Wigmore Hall recital left us in no doubt that this young girl is an experienced performer – her poise and focused demeanour at all times went some way towards mitigating the weaker musical moments as well as polishing the impressive passages.

A great shame therefore that Miss Hanslip opened the concert with a poor performance of the well known and universally loved Beethoven pieces. One wonders that she did not underestimate their difficulty – the notes in themselves are no contest to their furiously challenging counterparts in the Prokofiev and the Wieniawski but to perform them successfully requires the greatest skill and musical authority. It is to Miss Hanslip’s credit, however, that with unfailing grace and professionalism she strove forwards and upwards to end on a brilliant note.

Aline Nassif




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