Superb Championship of Some Less Familiar Repertoire

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Poulenc, Prokofiev, Wagner, Elgar: Nikita Boriso-Glebsky (violin), Kasparas Uinskas (piano), Wigmore Hall, London, 4.6.2016. (RB)

Poulenc: Sonata for Violin and Piano (1942-43)

Prokofiev (arr. Baich and Fletzberger): Suite from Romeo and Juliet

Wagner (arr. August Wilhelmj): Romance

Elgar: Sonata in E Minor Op 82

Russian violinist, Nikita Boriso-Glebsky, rose to prominence in 2010 when he won both the Sibelius and Kreisler International Violin Competitions. He was joined at this concert by Lithuanian pianist, Kasparas Uinskas, who is becoming something of a regular performer at the Wigmore Hall. This was an intriguing programme of lesser-known works for violin and piano from the second half of the 19t- and first half of the 20th Centuries.

Poulenc wrote his only surviving Sonata for violin and piano between the summer of 1942 and Easter 1943 for Ginette Neveu who gave the first performance of the work with the composer in June 1943. The sonata is dedicated to the memory of the Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca and the central intermezzo is headed with Lorca’s line, “The guitar makes dreams weep”. The opening Allegro con fuoco was played with enormous energy and dramatic flair by both performers. There was an edginess and rhythmic tautness to the performance which I liked enormously and excellent interplay between the two musicians. Boriso-Glebsky brought a gorgeous sweetness of tone to the intermezzo and the double stopping in the central section was beguilingly seductive. Poulenc marked the score très lent et calme at this point and I wondered if the performers might have done a little more to project the tranquil atmospherics of the piece. The last movement was a tumultuous tour de force with both performers producing dazzling passage-work, rapidly shifting textures and sonorities while the slow and halting coda was played with absolute conviction. This was a high octane and exciting performance and a great way to open the concert.

From Poulenc we moved to Lidia Baich and Matthias Fletzberger’s arrangement of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. The work is based on numbers from the original ballet rather than on the various suites which Prokofiev himself adapted from the score. Baich and Fletzberger say in their foreword that they have “studied the original scores very carefully in order to properly use the different voices and create a colourful and diverse sound-image using only two instruments”. I was not familiar with this arrangement before the concert but Boriso-Glebsky and Uinskas proved to be magnificent advocates of the work. Boriso-Glebsky produced scampering silvery toned scales which captured the girlish delight and giddiness of Juliet to perfection. The grotesque pageantry of the Dance of the Knights resonated around the hall as Uinskas created dark, powerfully projected chords on the piano while Boriso-Glebsky played the famous melody. Boriso-Glebsky did a wonderful job capturing the Romantic rapture of the famous balcony scene as the violin line soared and swooned while Uinskas provided a flexible accompaniment full of striking, rich orchestral sonorities. I liked the cheeky, playful quality Uinskas brought to the Dance of the Couples while both performers brought an infectious rumbustious energy in the portrait of Mercutio. Boriso-Glebsky showed us dazzling virtuoso firepower in the final scene before stabbing discords on both instruments representing Tybalt’s final funeral procession brought the work to a close.

The second half opened with a short arrangement of one of Wagner’s album leaves which was dedicated to Princess Pauline Metternich. I was struck by the fluidity of Boriso-Glebsky’s playing and the way in which he was able to capture the Romantic ardour of the music without becoming mawkish.

The final work on the programme was Elgar’s Violin Sonata which the composer wrote in 1918 immediately before the great Cello Concerto. This work deserves to be much more widely known so it was great to see it having an airing at this concert. The performers did an excellent job characterising and synthesising the composer’s contrasting themes in the opening Allegro. The phrasing was immaculate and the tempi were flexible, allowing Elgar’s more lyrical material space to breath. There was deft interplay between the performers in the Spanish-inflected Andante. Subtle rhythmic interjections on the piano vied with pizzicato chords on the violin while the violin melody in the central section was truly heartfelt. The tempo was well judged in the final Allegro, non troppo. I enjoyed Uinskas’ imaginative handling of the constantly evolving textures while Boriso-Glebsky moved seamlessly from grand rhetoric and high passion to some highly expressive and tender playing.

Overall, these were superb performances by both players throughout and it was good to see these young performers championing these lesser known works.

Robert Beattie


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