Chloë at Wigmore Hall – 19 November

Scherzo (FAE Sonata)
Sonata in D minor, Op.108
Poème, Op.25
Adagio in E, K261
Sonata in G major
Caprice d’après l’Étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns

Chloë Hanslip (violin) &
Charles Owen (piano)

Reviewed by: Ying Chang

Reviewed: 19 November, 2002
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

What do we expect from our musical prodigies today? Are they the performing seals of the industry, finding audiences drawn by a mixture of curiosity, admiration of precocity and the marketing hook of tender age? Or are they the true future of our musical heritage, the only performers, who by stealing a march over those whose technical facility matures only with practice, have the priceless gift of time over their peers and competitors? On the evidence of Chloë Hanslip’s Wigmore debut, she is certainly far too serious a musician to be just a passing fashion, but it remains simply too early to say how far she will advance along the road of musical profundity.

In terms of technical facility, musical naturalness and platform poise, we simply could not have asked more of someone who is only fifteen. As to how, in years to come, she will interpret the repertoire, and whether, in our old ages, we will be speaking of her as truly great, cannot yet be known. What is certain is that intonation and sound are more than half the battle for a violinist. Chloë (she is marketed by her Christian name) possesses full, rich, opulent and sensuous sound that she controls at will; the listener is never less than pleased by the singing line of her intonation.

The pieces in this ambitious programme had very different demands, and therefore varying success. The straightforward energy of the FAE Scherzo proved an excellent start. The Mozart was notable for the ravishing presentation of the melody than any insight into its musical meaning, while the Brahms sonata, taken generally at fast tempi, proved more virtuosic than considered.

After the interval, the Ravel was both stylish and rhythmically acute, and both the rhapsodic forward-motion and the pearl drops of sound in the slow passages of the Chausson were continually charming; the unashamed virtuosity of Ysaÿe, and encores including Kreisler’s Syncopation, seemingly effortless.

Charles Owen played his role to perfection, one that was consciously supportive, subordinate and secondary. This recital was a shop-window for the violinist, an occasion where the pianist needed to be psychologically as well as musically considerate. Prodigies are human beings too, and Wigmore Hall debuts are notorious for unseating the best-practised adult riders. Owen’s exemplary precision – positively military in Brahms’s Scherzo – and his discretion gave Chloë an ideal opportunity to relax into her performances.

For all Chloë’s virtuosity, her seamlessly sumptuous tone made the evening drag. In ten years’ time, one would hope that her winning ingenuity and precocious grandeur of sound will have deepened into a more stylistically varied approach; and one would expect a far greater creative tension with the pianist. For the moment, I am happy to admire her talent.

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