Bálint Székely & Mariko Kondo

Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A, Op.47 (Kreutzer)
Bartók arr. Szigeti
Hungarian Folk Tunes [from For Children]

Bálint Székely (violin) & Mariko Kondo (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 13 November, 2006
Venue: St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London

Word of mouth recommendations carry much weight. The duo of Bálint Székely and Mariko Kondo has been garnering muttered endorsements and seeking out this free lunchtime concert was sufficient vindication. Both Székely (from Transylvania) and Kondo (from Japan) are natural musicians and make a fine team.

This recital in the pleasant but not acoustically ideal surroundings of St James’s Piccadilly (very near the tube station and Virgin store) began with some unadvertised Kreisler and introduced Székely’s rich, generous and poised playing and, in the Allegro, an articulate response that gave the notes and the spirit that lies behind them.

Then came the ‘Kreutzer’, a masterwork of the repertoire. With the proviso that outer movement repeats were omitted to the detriment of the scale of both and also bringing an imbalance with the extended Theme and Variations middle movement, this was a very impressive performance. Tempos were apposite to catching the drive and energy of the work, its lyrical beauty, and the musical argument. Although balance was well-judged between the instruments, a few more ‘ideas’ from Kondo would have helped redress the feeling that Székely makes more decisions than does Kondo. But she is a deft and, when needed, strong pianist who offers unstinting support. The highlight was the Variations at the work’s centre, an ideal opening tempo that allowed an organic growth across the whole. The odd imperfection aside, what shone here was the musicians’ identity with the score; every trill and pizzicato had musical significance.

Some scratchy sounds, here and in the other pieces, seemed more to do with the violin Székely was using, and Kondo’s Bösendorfer was more clattering than mellow (a normal distinction of this make). With better instruments both musicians would have produced a greater range of sounds although dynamic variance was well considered; hopefully they will be better equipped for the Wigmore Hall on 18 June 2007, an important date in their diary.

To close, Szigeti’s arrangement of movements from Bartók’s For Children (for piano) into a folksong suite for violin and piano was revealed with earthy intensity and completed a recital that was notable for dedicated performances. These are two artists that one wants to hear more of.

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