Thomas Gould and Yulia Chaplina bring a sense of imagination to the stimulating Behind the Iron Curtain

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Weinberg, Prokofiev, Shostakovich – Behind the Iron Curtain: Thomas Gould (violin), Yulia Chaplina (piano). Kings Place, London, 26.5.2021. (CC)

Thomas Gould (violin) and Yulia Chaplina (piano)

Shostakovich (arr. Chaplina) – Pieces from Ballet Suites for solo piano; Extracts from stage and film scores Moscow, Cheryomushki, Tale about the Priest and his Worker, Blockhead, Michurin, The Gadfly for solo piano

Shostakovich – ‘Waltz No. 2’ from Jazz Suite No.2 for violin & piano; ‘Romance’ from The Gadfly for violin and piano

Mieczyslaw WeinbergChildren’s Notebook Book I, Op.16 (excerpts)

Prokofiev – Violin Sonata No.1 in F minor, Op. 80

The last concert I covered by pianist Yulia Chaplina was an unalloyed success: Tolstoy and Beethoven, there with Jack Liebeck and Julia Summerville OBE in October 2020. That sense of imagination continued through to this evening, Behind the Iron Curtain, a stimulating, interval-free, socially distanced early evening concert. The evening was split into two, effectively, though: solo piano for the Weinberg (1919-96) and Shostakovich, then violin and piano for the ‘meaty’ Prokofiev Sonata and Shostakovich pieces.

Dare one hope that Weinberg’s time is coming? A recent release on Oehms Classics of the Third Book of Weinberg’s Children’s Notebooks (that one, Op.23) found Elisaveta Blumina at her most charming. Here, we had three pieces, beginning with the eloquent simplicity of the first piece, a Larghetto. While at the time Weinberg was criticised for including too much sophistication, these pieces do speak to the child within. Chaplina’s precise placing of chords against the expressive melody in octaves was a simply delicious way to begin the evening; the fifth piece, an Allegretto, has a lovely clockwork aspect to it before the Andante tranquillo, the somewhat dolorous seventh piece, brought us to a touching place of peace. These are lovely pieces.

It was a terrific idea of Chaplina’s to include a sequence of pieces from Shostakovich’s stage and film scores (using as a starting point. the arrangements by Joseph Prostakoff). Much thought had obviously gone into the sequencing here, with the Gadfly Prelude, gently caressed, offering a nice plateau of calm. From the schmaltzy ‘Melancholy-Ditty’ from Moscow, Cheryomushki to the interior pianissimos of the Romance form the First Ballet Suite, to the robust final Waltz from the 1948 film Michurin, this was a tour de force from every angle. Chaplina’s pianism was beautifully controlled and perfectly attuned to Shostakovich’s idiom. A joy.

(As a point of interest, Chaplina contributed an excellent ‘Masterclass’ article on Tchaikovsky’s Lullaby, Op.16/1 in the March/April 2021 edition of International Piano.)

Violinist Thomas Gould, since 2016 one of the co-leaders of the Britten Sinfonia, was the soloist in Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata, a work of huge scope and gravitas. From the perfectly placed, chthonic opening on the piano and the violin’s earthy ripostes, it was clear this was to be a magical performance. Gould’s sound is perfect, full, intense; his veiled scales, in total contrast, spoke of otherworldly spaces. When it came to the second movement, this was Prokofiev at his most brutalist within a chamber environment; and both players immersed themselves in the music’s power – miraculously without overloading the acoustic or breaking the tone of their instruments. Quite an achievement. It was left to the Andante to offer solace, the delicate traceries of the music offering a gossamer thread. Gould’s sound was so resonant at times he could almost have been playing on a viola; yet up high his violin spoke with the utmost fragility. How superb, too, the pizzicato violin and piano exchanges in the finale.

Fascinating to return to Shostakovich – this time with violin – for the final two items, the Waltz No. 2 from the Jazz Suite No.2, and the famous ‘Romance’ from The Gadfly. Lovely to hear, also, the ‘Pantomine’ from Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style as a parting of the ways.

Colin Clarke

For more about Kings Place click here.

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