Editor: Marc Bridle

Regional Editor:Bill Kenny


Webmaster: Len Mullenger





WWW MusicWeb

Search Music Web with FreeFind

Any Review or Article



Seen and Heard Recital Review



Brahms, de Falla, Franck, Sarasate: Leticia Moreno (violin) and Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano), Wigmore Hall, London, 8.1.06 (ED)

Johannes Brahms: Scherzo in C minor, from the ‘FAE sonata’ (1853)

Johannes Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Op. 100   (1886)

Manuel de Falla (arr. Pawel Kochanski): Suite populaire espagnole for violin & piano   (1914)

César Franck: Violin Sonata in A   (1886)

Pablo Sarasate: Carmen Fantasy Op. 25 (1883)



Funny, the conversations you overhear before a concert:

“Can she play?”

“Don’t know, never heard her, but have you seen her picture?”

Pause - two men look at a picture in the programme

“So the dress shouldn’t disappoint then” …



Leticia Moreno strode purposefully onto the stage bearing, at the age of 20, an already enviable reputation before her that collaborations with Rostropovich, Kremer, Vengerov and numerous orchestras among others have contributed to.

The ‘FAE sonata’ is a strange work. It was written for Joachim with one movement apiece by Schumann, Dietrich and Brahms, whose closing scherzo is the only part to still enjoy at intermittent concert outings today and displays the composer’s youthful highly strung emotional state. The performance was an edgy one, never settling; but that wasn’t totally down to the writing. Moreno tried valiantly to make much of the interchanges of voice that the music allowed for against the rather insistent tone of Crawford-Phillips’ accompaniment. Balance, both physically and musically extreme, entered into things too – Moreno being keen to try and steer things her way proved highly mobile, though later she was more at ease in lyrical moments, and this was reflected in her playing.

Brahms’ second violin sonata displays a greater maturity in the writing, being less prone to internal exaggeration for its own sake than the preceding FAE scherzo. From the simplicity with which the opening statement was delivered, the Allegro amabile grew with an appropriate sense of feeling and warmth. Emphases, though brief, were strongly drawn from the woody mid-range of the 1679 Guarneri instrument Moreno played.  The Andante tranquillo’s sotto voce opening lent a touch of mystery before the intervention of fleet-footed waltzes and violin asides that carried a whispered lyricism about them. A pity that pizzicato passages were slightly lost against the almost unvarying mezzo-forte dynamic of the accompaniment. To close, the Allegretto grazioso gained character from the lower and mid ranges of Moreno’s expressive instrument and the imagination with which wistful, almost casual, remarks contrasted with passages of raised voice.

The Suite populaire espagnole takes its material in equal measure from folk sources, and the twin imaginations of de Falla and Kochanski. Cast in six brief movements Moreno gave glimpses of Spain that she carries in her blood. These ranged from a slyly given opening that also featured greater insistence and brightness of tone. The second miniature, Nana, was more obviously folk-originating and had a vocal sincerity of feeling expressed though its simple delivery, where the pure bell-like accompaniment also contributed atmospherically.  Canción was stronger in its expression of contrasts and harmonic alterations. Polo brought to mind a bullfight – the piano’s stamping line as the beast raging against the matador’s cape of the violinist’s more elegant soaring line. Asturiana returned almost to the repose of Nana, but with a greater touch of sorrow about it in the violin’s colouring. The closing Jota proved a lively dance that was an up-tempo showpiece for both performers, bringing both together whilst presenting contrasting material: pianistic exuberance combined with violinistic nobility and touching simple tone.

Franck’s great sonata – like the Brahms that went earlier – has long been a staple of the repertoire for any violinist, but it is also a work that makes significant demands on the accompanist, and any performance will stand or fall based on the partnership that both form. The opening movement ranged from a nonchalant purity of tone to steer a heady course through the ensuing shifting harmonies and tempo changes, though perhaps the piano part could have been slightly less forceful at times. This contrasted with a more self-questioning second movement that sought to exploit differences in tonal colouring between a rougher lower register and a crystalline top. Forthright passions were unleashed by Moreno and Crawford-Phillips in the third movement, with carefully shaded asides lending fragility to her statements of the main theme before seeing a full return to passion once again. This connected confidently with an intelligently phrased finale in which the piano led proudly, the violin complementing though retaining a slight detachment before bursting into a triumphant ending. A complete performance? Not quite, though with many key ingredients available to them, it won’t be long before one develops.

Since Moreno has been described as “Spain’s great hope for the violin after Sarasate” it was appropriate that the recital should conclude with one of his works.  To start, the Act Three/Four entr’acte displayed dedication to purpose, and picked up where de Falla’s Polo left off, complete with double stops and intricate harmonics. In the Habanera one sensed Carmen’s teasing self but also a certain hardness of heart as pizzicato and simultaneously bowed notes were fearlessly dispatched. The Chanson et Mélodrame cut a swathe of passionate precision in the playing, whilst the Seguidilla was given sprightly, though with a heart of fire. This linked seamlessly to a Chanson bohème that was taken at full tilt from first to last in a dual display of no holes barred bravura playing, even if as earlier in the programme, this led to occasional sacrifices of precision or tone, and in this case a near destruction of the music itself.

Leticia Moreno’s name is one we will be hearing much more of very soon – not least because she has several Naxos recordings lined up - but her playing displays real passion, that if anything outweighs its polish right now. The violin world needs artists like Moreno who step outside the safety zone to dig deeper – even if the results don’t always quite hit the mark.

Oh, and she looked great in the dress too (a tight and moody purple number with a high front split and black edging at the back), in case you wondered.



Evan Dickerson



Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page





Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)