Maxim Vengerov: concert review

Maxim Vengerov

Maxim Vengerov

Maxim Vengerov

Musica Viva 70th Anniversary Gala Recital

Thursday 10 December, 2015




BACH Chaconne from Violin Partita no 2 in D minor, BWV1004

BEETHOVEN Sonata No 7 in C minor op 30 no 2

RAVEL Violin Sonata in G major

YSAŸE Violin Sonata no 6 in E major, Op. 27 for solo violin

ERNST Étude no 6 (The Last Rose of Summer) for solo violin

PAGANINI Cantabile op 17 in D major for violin and piano

PAGANINI I Palpiti Op.13 (arranged by Fritz Kreisler)

Maxim Vengerov has been a star on the concert stage to the point where the mere mention of his name conjures up expressions such as ‘extraordinary musicianship’, ‘technically unsurpassed’, ‘enthralling and elegant’ and so on. These are a few of the quotes I’ve read over the passed week or so as he has travelled around Australia, accompanied by Roustem Saitkoulov in a recital program to commemorate Musica Viva’s 70th Anniversary.

Last night the audience in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House bore witness to one of the finest concerts in modern times. He had to compete with Harrison Ford and a Star Wars spectacular in the forecourt. You could argue that Vengerov used ‘the force’ but that would be denigrating to an absolute master of his instrument.

I won’t rehash every adjective used to describe him, but suffice to say, every one of them is correct. When an entire audience gasps aloud in disbelief as they did part the way through Ernst’s Etude No 6 for solo violin from 1864 at a moment of technical and musical wizardry you know that it is part of something above and beyond the normal run of the mill concert performance.

Let’s break it down. Firstly, the stage and lighting was exquisite – a simple flower arrangements to accompany the piano. Both natural and red spotlighting gave out a rich ambience of colour that matched perfectly with the musicians on stage.

The opening Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No 2 in D Minor, was a miracle in itself. It was as if the violin was simply an extension of his natural being, so effortless it was for him. A concert standard, it is easy to dismiss it as an overplayed warhorse. In Vengerov’s hands it is a formative progression of all the technical demands of the violin together with a spaciousness of tone colour that would be difficult to match in any field of music.

The Beethoven Sonata No 7 for violin and piano followed and despite the mood being temporarily broken by uneducated and disrespectful audience members who partially clapped at the end of the first movement and cough and spluttered their way through the breaks between the other movements, this was a well constructed and perfectly balanced delivery of this Beethoven masterpiece. This was Roustem Saitkoulov’s highlight of the evening as this work gives equal weighting to both instruments and his pianistic skills where delivered majestically throughout.

It would be a future highlight to see him in a concerto performance.
After interval, the remainder of the evening was devoted to 19th and 20th century repertoire. Ravel’s jazz influenced Violin Sonata is a work where Ravel has combined impressionistic overtones together with some blues experimentation and produced a virtuosic journey through a mirage of harmonic diversity and rhythmic invention. It’s ‘Perpetual Motion’ finale again gave the audience the opportunity to go into raptures over his performance.

Solo interludes by Ysaye and Ernst again gave Vengerov the opportunity to show of his extraordinary talent. The for-mentioned Etude No 6 is surely one of the most difficult solo works for the instrument and its even more amazing when you read that he performed it when he was 12.

No recital for the violin is complete without a contribution from Paganini and it was nice to hear a short lyrical work ‘Cantabile’ before another technical showpiece ‘I Palpiti’ for violin and piano. He never tired at all. He was professional from start to finish, not letting his hair down until after the programmed work was complete.

Three encores followed with Massenet’s emotional ‘Meditation’ encompassed by two of Brahms Hungarian Dances, Nos 2 and 5. He was very generous with his time and also took a moment to thank the audience and Musica Viva for the tremendous work they do in promoting young musicians of the future.

This was a concert for all music lovers. Any young performer will have been instantly inspired by his musicianship and technical brilliance.
Anyone with an innate knowledge of the works would have been dazzled and taken back and, at times had their breath taken away. The first time attendee would have simply said ‘How good was that!’
Best in the world? By panels of fencing.

5 Stars
Frank Shostakovich



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