Concert Review

Three Violinists in recital: Simon Blendis with James Kirby (Mozart, Ravel & Copland); Ruth Waterman with Morey Ritt (Bach); Christian Tetzlaff with Leif Ove Andsnes (Dvorak & Schubert). South Bank Centre and Wigmore Hall, April 2000.

Three violinists appearing with piano provided interesting comparisons. Simon Blendis with James Kirby in the Purcell Room made an uneasy duo in Mozart's Bb sonata K.454 to start their recital. Blendis had a pure, focused tone, familiar from hearing him often as the violinist of the Schubert Ensemble, and he has an ideal Mozartian style, which made me think of Szymon Goldberg (try to hear his Mozart sonatas with Lilli Krauss - Dante LYS410 etc). Unfortunately the piano was slightly over-loud and over-pedalled for so refined a violinist - this did not draw my attention away from Simon Blendis; paradoxically, when there is an imbalance, I listen harder to the one underneath!

All righted itself for the interesting, if just a little overlong, Ravel sonata of 1897, played at the Paris Conservatoire by Georges Enesco with the 22 yr old composer, but not often in concert since then (though often recorded on CD, as are many novelties nowadays). It is a luscious single movement with expansive melody, said to be influenced by Franck and Fauré - it also brought Delius to mind. Blendis used a fuller, generous tone and balance was fine; James Kirby giving evidence to support his prestigious CV with important competition successes. Both artists let their hair down for two jazz influenced pieces of 1926 by Aaron Copland (born 1900, so we will hear a lot of him this year). The muted Nocturne is languorous and contrasts well with Ukelele Serenade for which both found an appropriately unbuttoned style and tone, making the most of lots of little surprises along the way.

Ruth Waterman is, in important ways, a similar sort of violinist, though her programme could not have been more different.. Poised and fairly still on the platform, her bowing immaculate, just enough vibrato to warm the tone, meticulous phrasing, she found dance and a sense of fun in the fast movements as well as romantic intensity in the slow ones, but keeping in bounds and avoiding exaggeration. Ruth Waterman is devoting herself to Bach this tricentenary year, though no 'authenticist' and not above signalling the end of a movement with a rallentando. She played all the sonatas with obbligato keyboard at the Wigmore Hall with her partner Morey Ritt, with whom she has recorded them all for Meridian CDE 84354 & 84420, together with the sonatas with continuo, accompanied by Carole Presland. Morey Ritt's piano playing was perfectly judged and balanced Ruth Waterman in tone and style, their partnership making an excellent case for the modern instrument.

Christian Tetzlaff is a very different sort of violinist, not one for every day, and his recital at the Queen Elisabeth Hall threw out sparks at every moment. He signals how he wants you to hear every bar, with extravagant body movement and gesture, up onto his toes, bending his knees to crouch low, a veritable demon fiddler like contemporary descriptions of Paganini. see also review

When Leif Ove Andsnes, his partner, first came to England many years ago, I found him somewhat over the top in his bid to make a mark; in this company he was the sober one, sitting low, his movements dexterous and economical, but reacting with imagination and daring, in perfect ensemble. I felt that they made altogether too much of Dvorak's rather sober Sonata (I far prefer his enchanting Sonatina) but I was fully persuaded by their account of the notorious, unforgiving Schubert Rondo D 895, a real punisher which demands highest virtuosity and lays low many violinists, leaving you wondering why they bothered - you are relieved when they get to the end! This duo made it an exhilarating party piece, both in complete control and free to point the various episodes with fun and imagination, never turning it into a mere circus act.

And finally, to bring readers back to my other violinists, they finished with a perfectly chosen encore, a brief slow movement from one of the Bach duo sonatas, played calmly and with perfect poise. I look forward to hearing this duo's Virgin Classics CD of Janacek, Debussy, Ravel and Nielsen.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Seen&Heard is part of Music on the Web(UK) Webmaster: Len Mullenger

Return to: Seen&Heard Index  

Return to: Music on the Web