Meltzer and Dörken relish the thrill of music making in Dresden

GermanyGermany Dresden Music Festival 2024 [5] – Beethoven, Hannah Ishizaki, Janáček, Fauré: Nathan Meltzer (violin), Danae Dörken (piano). Kronensaal, Schloss Albrechtsberg, Dresden, 23.5.2024. (MC)

Danae Dörken (piano) and Nathan Meltzer (violin) © Dresdner Musikfestspiele

Beethoven – Violin Sonata No.10 in G major, Op.96
Hannah Ishizaki – Violin Sonata (world premiere)
Janáček – Violin Sonata
Fauré – Violin Sonata No.1 in A major, Op.13

Experience has shown me that some of the most satisfying concerts are those of a smaller scale. This recital for violin and piano duo held in the glorious setting of the Kronensaal at Schloss Albrechtsberg was a perfect example of that. Four composers were represented by a work each spanning some two hundred and ten years. Complimenting each other royally were American violinist Nathan Meltzer, a product of the Juilliard School, New York and German/Greek pianist Danae Dörken, who studied under renowned teachers Karl-Heinz Kämmerling and Lars Vogt.

Opening the recital was Beethoven’s Tenth Violin Sonata in G major the final of his ten in that form.

The Tenth followed the Ninth Sonata known as the Kreutzer Sonata by some ten years. Acclaimed French violinist Pierre Rode premiered the score in 1812 together with Beethoven’s generous patron Archduke Rudolph. Here Meltzer and Dörken adapted well to the difficult and emotional compass of the writing. This is an expressive work, and I was drawn to the second movement Adagio espressivo evoking a distinct melancholy as if parting and to the Scherzo. Allegro reminded me of a heated conversation that develops into bitterness.

American based composer Hannah Ishizaki is best known as the youngest female composer who in 2017 with City of Bridges for orchestra lasting four minutes had a world premiere performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. This evening’s recital was the world premiere of Ishizaki’s five movement Violin Sonata. From a young age Ishizaki played both violin and mandolin so her interest in writing a major chamber work for violin comes as no surprise. Meltzer and Dörken seemed to relish the challenges of Ishizaki’s percussive piano writing and the violin harmonics. Next, I was aware of the fiery and spiky rhythms of both instruments. Meltzer and Dörken provided a calm but unsettling feel to the slow movement which then developed a yearning passion, increasing in force before fading away to nothing. I recall being astonished by the playing of Meltzer and in the final movement the sounds became cacophonous reminding me of the noise of steelworks. Whilst the two performers took their well-deserved bow the composer joined them on the stage. I found the new sonata interesting in parts, but overall stringently anxious and overbearingly strident.

During the tense build-up to the First World War Janáček was writing his Violin Sonata that he completed likely in 1915. Janáček subjected the score to several revisions prior to its premiere at Brno in 1922. He wrote the work for Olga, daughter of violinist Otakar Ševčík. When Olga died unexpectedly Janáček was overwrought which likely inflamed the intensity of the sonata. It felt as if Meltzer and Dörken had realised the sonata was Janáček’s response to the First World War and he was using his own individual language. The duo was especially successful in the Ballada movement that might be described as lyrically bucolic, warm and summery interrupted by a stormy middle section.

The most successful performance was the final work of the programme Fauré’s First Violin Sonata, an early work when the composer was aged twenty. Completed in 1876, it was some forty years before he wrote his second in the genre. This First Violin Sonata, a highly regarded work, was given a splendid performance of calm assurance by Meltzer and Dörken who seemed entirely within the core of the piece. Standing out the opening movement Allegro molto contains turbulent romantic emotions together with warm and inviting melodies and ends on a note of striking passion. Worthy of singling out too was the gorgeous dreamlike playing of the Andante movement, like an expression of love and devotion.

This extremely talented duo Meltzer and Dörken relishing the thrill of music making was there for all to see.

Michael Cookson

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