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Janáček, Beethoven, Chausson, Ravel: Vadim Repin (violin); Itamar Golan (piano)  QEH, 18.02. 2007 (CC)


Vadim Repin is surely one of the greatest violinists alive today. He has previously impressed me in concert in two concertos – the  Shostakovich First   in 2003 and the Tchaikovsky in 2004. This recital only served to underline his status.


Originally, his pianist was to have been Nikolai Lugansky, who dropped out due to a recent injury. His replacement, Itamar Golan (a professor of chamber music at the Paris Conservatoire) stepped in at the last minute and made a lasting impression by his sensitive musicality and his excellent technique. If only Golan were a more tranquil pianist – he moves incessantly and rather distractingly.


The Janáček Sonata (1922), a late work,  is a tricky piece interpretatively. It must seem an even higher mountain to climb at the very start of a recital, yet Repin dug in to the opening with a confidence that suggested he thought otherwise. Interestingly in light of the later Ravel Tzigane, Repin seemed to search for gypsy overtones to Janáček's score. Keeping the lyric impulse intact, Repin's grainy lower register (he played a 1736 Guarneri del Gesů) added an intriguing element to his expressive vocabulary. Knowing when to drop sophistication is also an indicator of maturity, so injecting a distinctly folksy element to the Ballada was an inspired idea. The rugged determination of the A flat minor Scherzo served to contrast with the moments of extreme delicacy of the Ballada, leading to a finale wherein explosive gestures and fragmentation conspired to disconcerting effect.


The Beethoven was the Sonata Op. 30/2, an exploration of Betehoven's C minor side that took on a distinctly Romantic tinge right from its portentious opening (quasi-late Lisztian dark clouds here). Ensemble was essentially flawless, while rests were given due weight and duration. If the second movement felt just a little quick for its Adagio marking, and Golan was uncharacteristically lumpy of phrasing in his opening solo, Repin remained impressively expressive, projecting perfectly without over-beefing things. The daring side of Beethoven's writing was heightened by the players, as was the very Beethovenian, ascerbic staccato of the Scherzo. The finale was almost orchestral in scale, generating real excitement.


Back in December, Viktoria Mullova and Katia Labčque had performed the Ravel Violin Sonata in this very hall. Mullova was very disappointing on that occasion, tending towards screechiness, but Labčque found just the right jazz colourings for the Blues. Golan was less persuasive in the popular idiom, but overall the Repin/Golan performance was infinitely perferable. With Repin daring to start his solo line before the audience had properly settled down, he projected his line with a tone that was sufficiently sweet without being over-saccharined. His pizzicato accents for the Blues were mightily impressive, while some of the nonchalance of the Blues infected the Perpetuum mobilefinlae.


Chausson's Počme is better known in its violin and orchestra guise, but here seemed just as impassioned. The identifiably French mode of Chausson's chromaticism infected the improvisatry quality of the melodies, delivered with a silken tone by Repin. Then straight in to Ravel's Tzigane before the applause had died down. A virtuoso-fest for both players, this reading also had real character. Predictably, it broght the house down.


Just the one encore, Bartók's Six Romanian Folkdances, Sz56 of 1915 (presumably in the Székely arrangement for violin and piano). A real treat, and the perfect way to round off a mightily impressive recital.


Colin Clarke




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