Around the World in 80 Minutes

Vaughan Williams
4 Visages
Le Grand Tango
A Bird Came Down the Walk
Russian Maiden’s Song
Salut d’Amour

Konstantin Boyarsky (viola) & Jakob Fichert (piano)

Reviewed by: Tony Pickard

Reviewed: 5 January, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Violist Konstantin Boyarsky and pianist Jacob Fichert devised and introduced what proved to be a welcome change from the usual run of viola recitals that focus on a few works and give the mistaken impression that the instrument has a limited repertoire.

Russian-born Boyarsky has lived in England since the age of 14, studying at the Menuhin School and Royal College of Music. He is currently a violist in the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Pianist Jacob Fischert, born in Germany, undertook post-graduate studies at the Royal College of Music and is a teacher, performer and regular broadcaster.

The programme billed as “Around the World in 80 Minutes” began with the gentle Romance by Vaughan Williams, a piece discovered amongst the composer’s papers after his death. Thence to France and Milhaud’s 4 Visages, said to be portraits of four ladies known to the composer! Shorter pieces by Wagner and Rossini were followed by South American Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango, with both players entering into the Latin spirit – Fichert becoming especially animated in the last movement.

After the interval four fellow-violists from the Royal Opera Orchestra joined Boyarsky for John Cage’s Dream (for solo viola and viola ensemble). This arrangement (from the 1970s) of an earlier piece proved attractive, with a solo monologue against a static accompaniment. In playing Stravinsky’s Russian Maiden’s Song, Boyarsky was inviting comparison with Yuri Bashmet who has made this piece his own (as an encore). Boyarsky played it straight, whereas Bashmet ‘bends’ the odd note, raising a smile from audiences. Following Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, another busy piece for the violist, we returned to England and Elgar’s most popular salon piece, Salut d’Amour.

The audience was attentive throughout this musical journey. There was the briefest of encores: Marais’s Le Basque in which the ‘Double’ was taken at a hair-raising speed. Fichert was a sensitive pianist throughout, never obscuring the viola, as can easily happen. There were times when I wished for more variety of tone from Boyarsky and, occasionally, more projection.

It is good to see two young artists not only concocting such an imaginative programme but also presenting it in such a way as to draw the audience into their music-making. I hope for more such recitals from them.

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