Sonata in G minor, Op.1/4 (Devil’s Trill)
Sonata No.1 in A minor for Violin and Piano, Op.105
Saint-Saëns, arr. Ysaÿe
Caprice d’après l’Etude en forme de Valse, Op.52/6
Sonata in A for Piano and Violin, Op.47 (Kreutzer)
Bálint Székely (violin) & Mariko Kondo (piano)
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 18 June, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The opening of the ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata (here in the arrangement by Kreisler) began with restless energy but, later, in the third movement, there were problems from Székely in tone production. Throughout, Kondo’s playing could only be described as an accompaniment and the famous trills from the violin were rather limp. In Schumann’s sonata, there was the omnipresent feeling of feet being dragged, although the problems with Székely’s note-production seemed to be overcome here. With no vigour in the opening movement and, again, without any hint showmanship, all focus was on Székely by default because of the lifelessness of Kondo’s playing. Parts of the Allegretto were handled delicately but the soul was lacking.
In happy contrast, Ysaÿe’s arrangement of Saint-Saëns’s piano piece was delightful in places and there was a definite dance quality to it. To make Bartók sound Romantic, as here, takes quite some skill but it is, nonetheless, wholly undesirable! There was no sense of its Hungarian gypsy tradition and any ironic humour usually associated with the opening section was jettisoned here. More Bartók was offered as an encore in the form his Romanian Folk Dances, all six, which lack the spirit of the dance and a distinctive sound.
By far the most disappointing was the ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata, again due to the lack of interaction between the players. The ‘Kreutzer’ is a biting and virtuoso work for piano and violin that should surge and fight with itself in the opening movement but which here was plodding and given with anaemic and unvaried tone; the pizzicatos were limp, too: a dispassionate performance. Parts of the central Variations sounded too much like a lullaby. The piano’s opening chord signalling the finale failed to attract attention and, like the opening movement, had little thrust, no exposition repeat and lacked bite and attack.