S&H Recital Review

Sergei & Lusine Khachatryan Bach Chaconne, Beethoven Sonata No 3 in Eb, Ysaye Sonata No 3. Blackheath Halls 4 February 2001

These siblings from Armenia, both their parents concert pianists, are making their UK debuts in Oxford and Blackheath. Sergei (b.1985) is 15 (possibly just 16) and his pianist sister Lusine a couple of years older. Lusine was trained by her mother from 6, Sergei, now a preparatory student in Karlsruhe, began violin studies at three. Both are hardened performers with lengthy CVs of international appearances and competition successes.

Predictably they have well advanced techniques for their ages, but it is far too early to guess how far their talent will lead them. I was relieved that there were no CDs on sale afterwards!

Sergei Khachatryan played all three works from memory on his loan Guadagnini. The Bach Chaconne was mostly too loud and unvaried, with traditional intense vibrato and no indication that he had tried a baroque violin set up as is now usual in early music groups, nor may he have been introduced by his teachers to contemporary styles of playing this music. It was virtuosic, but little else.

Ysaye's Sonata No 3 was again technically accomplished and it was a considerable feat to have coped with its difficulties. For the Beethoven Sonata No 3 in Eb, Lusine kept her Bosendorfer piano lid shut right down, which produced an odd effect (I have never forgotten how Szymon Goldberg, giving a violin master class at Dartington many decades ago, thrust Susan Bradshaw's lid right up, and said that it should never be necessary to use a short stick for duo work, because chamber music players should be able to achieve the necessary balance without impairing the piano tone quality that way). But this was the best performance and made it clear that brother and sister had played together often and were well attuned. Importantly, Sergei had been taught to accompany the piano when appropriate, which has not always been the case with prestigious violinists appearing at Blackheath.

Yesterday I received a CD of the same Beethoven Eb sonata which bowled me over. The great Russian violinist Oleg Kagan and pianist/composer Vassily Lobanov (well remembered from the old Almeida Festivals) sweep through the first movement with breathtaking unanimity of thought and detail of ensemble; a riveting experience which made one practically forget to take a breath for its 7½ minutes! There may be safer models, but I hope the young Khachatryans will hear that one and be guided towards deeper interpretations, preserving openness to aspects which they will only be able to absorb with greater maturity.

It will be interesting to hear these gifted youngsters again in another couple of years, during which I hope they will do a lot of chamber music and widen their interests in other directions.

Peter Grahame Woolf

The live performances of three Beethoven sonatas are on the Volume VIII of the Oleg Kagan Edition of SDR Live Classics LCL 144 which, on this first sampling, will be very worth while exploring - in other volumes Kagan is partnered in chamber music by some of the greatest musicians, including Richter, Bashmet and Gutman.

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