An Extraordinary Recital from Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Anthony Romaniuk

United KingdomUnited Kingdom C.P. E. Bach, J. S. Bach, Crumb, Ligeti, Kurtág, Biber, Pandolfi Meali, Sciarrino, Beethoven, Lann: Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin); Anthony Romaniuk (harpsichord/piano) Wigmore Hall, London, 7.5.2017. (CC)

C. P. E. Bach – Fantasie in F sharp minor, Wq80
Crumb Four Nocturnes (Night Music II)
LigetiHungarian Rock (Chaconne)
KurtágTre pezzi, Op.14e
BiberSonata representativa for solo violin and continuo
Pandolfi Meali – Violin Sonata in D, Op.3/3, “La Melana”
Sciarrino – Capriccio No.2
Beethoven – Violin Sonata in F, Op.24, “Spring” – Scherzo
LannSprings Eternal (2007)
J.S. Bach – Partita No.2 in D minor for solo violin – Chaconne (with improvised accompaniment)

A glorious recital by Kopatchinskaja and Polina Leschenko in March was impressive enough (see review), but this evening’s programme revealed just how hyper-intelligent Kopatchinskaja really is. The music traversed centuries with ease, all composers united in their unique viewpoints on music and what it expresses. This time she was partnered with Anthony Romaniuk, who makes something of a specialization of improvising, not only in the Bach Partita, but in off-the-cuff lead-ins to pieces. Kopatchinskaja played two violins, one for contemporary pieces, the other a baroque violin and bow for the earlier music.

The audience was invited, in effect, to listen keenly throughout. Lighting and positioning of performers played its part, too. The C. P. E. Bach Fantasie in F sharp minor (an arrangement by the composer of his Fantasia for keyboard solo, Wq67) dates from 1787; Romaniuk extinguished a light on the Wigmore piano to indicate the beginning of the piece proper after his own keyboard musings. Kopatchinskaja’s contribution came after an extended keyboard solo (it is very much for piano and violin, in that order); she entered via the audience door at the side of the stage and played from audience level on the opposite side of the stage to Romaniuk. The piece itself is, as one might expect from this composer, quirky and sectional, and yet the pair made as convincing a case for it as one could possibly hope for. In the toccata passage, Romaniuk’s touch was perfectly judged. Kopatchinskaja moved quickly to the stage for the final gigue. Again, characteristically for this composer, even the gigue was not straightforward. A wonderful piece, and it is impossible to imagine a better performance.

The programme came forward not too much shy of 200 years to George Crumb’s Four Nocturnes (Night Music II) of 1964. The pianist is asked to use the inside of the piano as part of his armoury, as well as plucking strings, evoking harmonic and knocking on the frame. The violinist too is asked to do some knocking; all within the envelope of  highly evocative music of real delicacy. Another toccata linked the music across the centuries. One had to wonder at Kopatchinskaja’s control of her instrument in this piece; and at another aspect of her playing, her unwillingness to make “nice” sounds for the sake of it. There was no vibrato-full veneer over everything here. It was as if she wanted to extract every iota of expression and nuance from her instrument.

It was great to hear Ligeti’s Hungarian Rock (Chaconne), a playful harpsichord piece beautifully done. What a nice touch, too, that Kopatchinskaja page-turned for her musical partner. Kurtág’s Tre Pezzi of 1979 was a window into the ever-fascinating world of this composer. The slow first piece found the piano creating a whole new universe of sound, while the violin told its own story. The central fragmentary dance led to the beautifully delicate finale, entitled “Aus der Ferne”.

Rounding off the first half was a return to earlier times, Biber’s Sonata representativa for solo violin and continuo (c 1669) is a quirky menagerie. The players introduced the various imitations, Kopatchinskaja in the original Italian, Romaniuk in English. All terrific fun, including an onstage explanation of the pun on the Musketier-Marsch (“Tier” = animal).

The second part of the recital was just as much of an adventure as the first. It seemed to excite Kopatchinskaja in the pre-concert talk that she just found out through Paul Griffiths’ booklet notes that Pandolfi is another composer famous for being a murderer (the other being Gesualdo, of course – Pandolfi murdered a castrato in Messina Cathedral). Pandolfi’s D major Violin Sonata Op.3/3, published in 1660, is cast in five movements, Adagio-Allegro-Adagio-Adagio-Allegro. The music is ruminative in impression (the adagios outnumber the allegros). The sectionalisation was not unlike that of the C. P. E. Bach; Pandolfi’s individuality comes through in the chromatic slidings indicated for the soloist. There are some lovely echo effects too. It’s a marvellous piece. Both Kopatchinskaja and Romaniuk breathed new life into the music. Romaniuk deliberately extended the final cadence while Kopatchinskaja got her music ready for the next piece …

Salvatore Sciarrino, who was represented by the Capriccio No.2 for solo violin, is currently writing a piece for Kopatchinskaja. The present piece dates back to the mid-1970s. Kopatchinskaja began the piece just a touch before the harpsichord extemporizing had died away, creating a bridge between the centuries. This is music of whispers, ultra-high, flautando. It was no challenge at all for Kopatchinskaja’s magnificent technique.

A more premediated cross-century linking came next: the short Scherzo from Beethoven’s ‘Spring’ Sonata (full of energy) before Kopatchinskaja ran across the stage to tackle the Vanessa Lann from the other side of the platform. Born in the US in 1968, Lann is based in the Netherlands. There was more running across the stage for Kopatchinskaja during the piece, which ends with what sounds like a barn dance. It’s fun and was entirely in the spirit of the basis of the evening’s activities.

Finally, the famous Bach Chaconne for solo violin. Only it wasn’t: Romaniuk improvised an accompaniment on harpsichord. Allegedly, Kopatchinskaja has no idea what he will do and the results differ from performance to performance. The strength of the harpsichord (Franco-Flemish double manual, 2005 by Marc Ducornet and Malcolm Greenhalgh) made for a robust experience. It worked beautifully, with the harpsichord on occasion grounding the violin arpeggios. Harpsichord ornamentation seemed to add an extra level of poignancy; the harpsichord even had its own statement of the theme before the final cadence. A terrific, stimulating experience.

The pre-concert talk contained gem upon gem. Kopatchinskaja is clearly one of the most individual voices in music today, and her intellect shines in her expressing her thoughts as much as in her playing. There were no encores despite a deservedly rousing reception. After the Philharmonia’s coupling of Boulez and Debussy a few days previously (review), it has been a stimulating week indeed.

Colin Clarke

Leave a Comment