Suite in the Old Style
Sonata No.1 in B minor for Violin and Piano
Sonata in D for Piano and Violin, Op.12/1
Chloë Hanslip (violin) & Igor Tchetuev (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 25 September, 2014
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
A new season of Thursday lunchtime concerts at the Wigmore Hall, curated by Lisa Peacock Concert Management, began with this attractive programme of works for violin and piano played by Chloë Hanslip and Igor Tchetuev.
Alfred Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style is an accomplished piece of pastiche, looking back to Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne for its inspiration, blended with Baroque musical forms. Hanslip chose her vibrato selectively, which added a subtle emphasis to particular notes and phrases, while Tchetuev, if a little heavy-handed at times, provided detailed commentary. There was a touching simplicity to the ‘Pastorale’ and ‘Minuet’, contrasting with the rather brusque ‘Fugue’. Schnittke turns the piece on its head in the final ‘Pantomime’, introducing some jarring dissonances and uncertain harmonies. Hanslip and Tchetuev ensured the rug was duly pulled from under the feet of the music, with an ominous chill present until the end.
Nikolai Medtner’s Sonata, the first of three substantial works in the form, was next. Like Rachmaninov, Medtner wrote almost nothing without the piano at its centre, but his music gains a powerful voice when the violin takes the lead. Hanslip clearly loves this music, for hers was a strong and passionate account. Though the first movement began as a subtle barcarolle, deep-seated passion was always bubbling beneath the surface, duly coming to the fore. There was commendable virtuosity in the scherzo, with its persuasive Slavonic dance rhythms, and though the finale outstayed its welcome a little the tolling bells at its outset were of Mussorgsky-borne drama, and there was a clear goal that Hanslip and Tchetuev found together in this most convincing account.
It was a nice idea to finish with one of the instinctive outpourings from Beethoven’s late-twenties; the Opus 12 set of three his first published Sonatas for the combination of piano and violin. Dedicated to Salieri, the group has constant melodic inspiration, and here the two performers were clearly enjoying the ‘Theme and Variations’ at the heart of the piece, though they were occasionally foursquare. The first movement had flowing exchanges that impressed with their youthful vigour, while the finale was a delight, the return of the sparkling theme often prefaced by some nicely judged rubato. Hanslip impressed with her phrasing here, while Tchetuev’s contribution ensured that the nuances of the piano part were clearly heard.