A Stunning Beethoven Recital by Julia Fischer and Igor Levit

05/07/2016

Beethoven: Julia Fischer (violin); Igor Levit (piano). Wigmore Hall, London, 4.7.2016. (CC)

Beethoven, Sonatas: Op. 12: No. 1 in D; No. 2 in A; No. 3 in E flat; A minor, Op. 23

This concert was preceded by a fascinating discussion between Fischer, Levit and journalist/author, Annette Morreau. Plenty of prescient questions were answered, including Fischer’s chosen instrument (a Guadagnini), and which were the two performers’ preferred recorded versions of the Beethoven violin and piano sonatas (Kreisler/Rupp in Op. 12/2 slow movement and Menuhin/Kempff for Fischer; and Busch/Serkin’s “Kreutzer” for Levit).

The sold-out performance itself was stunning. This cycle (which spans three consecutive days) is part of a tour that includes the Prinzregententheater Munich, the Tonhalle Zurich and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris. Fischer plays from memory and, as became obvious from the off, her tone is absolutely beautiful. Fischer and Levit seemed to be at pains to show just how sophisticated these works are, as well as revelling in the more daring writing – a passage in the first movement of Op. 12/1 for just piano right-hand and violin, for example, or some lovely exploratory passages in the first movement development). The second movement of Op. 12/1 comprises a set of variations, the only set in the cycle apart from that in the “Kreutzer”, and it became obvious here that this was a meeting of equals (Fischer seemed the more settled of the two in the first movement). The lively finale, with its occasional touch of grit, was a joy, the off-beat accents so characteristic of Beethoven in gruff-humour an absolute joy.

Fischer had singled out the slow movement of the A major Sonata, Op. 12/2 for special mention in the pre-concert talk, and it is easy to hear why anyone can hold affection for this piece. As a whole, the sonata is witty and delightful; both players seemed to have a ball. Those very rapid passages in the first movement for both instruments that can so easily degenerate into a scramble were perfectly dealt with; Fischer’s stopping in the central Andante, più tosto allegretto matched Levit’s eloquence. The wistful simplicity of the finale was perfectly captured by virtue of the players’ superb communication.

An interval separated Op. 12/2 from the final sonata of the Op. 12 set, the E flat major. The first movement is remarkably challenging for both players; Fischer’s beautiful tone and impeccable intonation was only part of the equation. She was wonderfully characterful, also. The highly dramatic first movement development section found both players on top form: some of it was almost fierce. To balance that ferocity, the central Adagio con molto espressione was a thing of beauty, the long cantabile violin melody against piano left-hand staccato gestures and right-hand chords a particularly memorable moment; it was only left to the jaunty finale to round things off in a bouncy fashion.

Finally, we heard the intriguing Sonata in A minor, Op. 23. The Op. 12 sonatas date from 1797/98; this one dates from 1800. The A minor is a sophisticated work; the opening Presto benefitted enormously from the sense of urgency injected by Fischer and Levit, while the fugatos of the central Andante scherzoso, più allegretto worked perfectly, not least because of Levit’s impeccable left-hand trills. The finale was a fitting way to close; it was a virtuoso performance from both players. How I wish I could have got to the remaining two recitals …

Colin Clarke

This recital was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and is available via their streaming service for a month.

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018 Blossom Music Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! LA Opera’s 2018/19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Buxton Festival 2018 and its New CEO __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Violinist Liza Ferschtman Celebrates Bernstein’s Centenary in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Piccadilly Chamber Music Series in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and More in Buenos Aires in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Spend a Penny for Grange Park Opera’s Lavatorium Rotundum __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! I Musicanti’s Alexandra and the Russians at St Johns Smith Square in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group to Perform Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto at Cadogan Hall __________________________________
  • NEW! A Celebration of the Work of Dai Fujikura at Wigmore Hall on 17 February __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB’s 2018 Emerging Dancer will be Chosen at the London Coliseum on 11 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Akram Khan’s Giselle for ENB Can be Seen in Cinemas from 25 April __________________________________
  • NEW! BARRY DOUGLAS IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • UPDATED! SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS CHOOSE THEIR ‘BEST OF 2017’ __________________________________
  • NEW! OMER MEIR WELLBER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! GREGOR TASSIE IN CONVERSATION WITH VALENTINA LISITSA __________________________________
  • NEW! Dénes Várjon Talks to Sebastian Smallshaw About Budapest’s Kamara.hu __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM – DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY (1962-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Ann Murray’s Masterclass at the V&A Part of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Russian Ballet Icons Gala at the London Coliseum on 25 February __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H