Chloë Hanslip & Itamar Golan – Wigmore Hall (23 March)

Sonata in F, Op.24 (Spring)
Romance in F, Op.50
Poème élegiaque, Op.12
Sonata No.2, Op.94a
Faust Fantasy, Op.20

Chloë Hanslip (violin) &
Itamar Golan (piano)

Reviewed by: Diarmuid Dunne

Reviewed: 23 March, 2004
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall can often have an unsettling effect on performers and although Chloë Hanslip began Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata in a poised and confident manner, maybe nerves played their part in what proved a disappointing opening to the evening. The first movement was so overly gilded with unnecessary dynamics that it was difficult to listen to, and although the second movement had a better sense of musicality, the scherzo was similar to the opening movement in being characterised by an impetuous desire to do too much with the music. The final Rondo (Allegro ma non troppo) was a little more convincing with some deft interplay between violin and piano, but the sonata as a whole was plagued by an unpleasant, rather brash tone from the violin which did little to endear the listener.

Unfortunately the Op.50 Romance suffered from the same tonal qualities, and, try as I did, I couldn’t help but get a sense of wailing from the violin, as though a struggling diva had not quite found her mark.

The best playing of the first half was reserved for Ysaÿe’s Poème élegiaque, which although it suffered from some of the afore-mentioned qualities, did allow Hanslip to break free of the shackles, on occasion, and display some impassioned and dramatic playing. The applause was generous and, for the most part, deserved.

Possibly relaxed from the warm applause, Hanslip began Prokofiev’s Second Sonata well, and displayed some fine playing in the opening movement. The scherzo (Presto), however, was a real eye-opener and the young prodigy unleashed her virtuoso talent with dramatic results. The interplay between her and Itamar Golan was superb and one got the sense that Hanslip had been itching to play something of this ilk from the very beginning. With the adrenaline out of her system the third movement was lyrical, almost surreal, and the Allegro con brio finale had some playful jocularity and convinced through the integration between violin and piano.

Henryk Wieniawski’s Faust Fantasy lent itself well to the young violinist’s tone, the brooding eastern melancholy and gypsy themes played with great assurance. But it was again in the flamboyant sections that Hanslip really took off with some witty, biting and wickedly virtuoso playing. It wasn’t technically flawless, but such was the flair and vigour that it would be uncharitable to point it out. So I won’t!

For an encore, Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy – which had impetuosity, dexterity and whimsy leading to an exhilarating finish.

Chloë Hanslip certainly has the technique to become a major name in the future, but I would say the key to her development is to focus on being musicianly. Her ability to inject vitality into already dramatic pieces is unquestionable, but on the evidence of this evening I would question her understanding of less obvious and indulgent works. The Beethoven, for example, was deeply unconvincing, and at times was played like a series of impetuous miniatures. But it should be remembered that is a 16-year-old: with that in mind, some of the playing is remarkable. Chloë Hanslip certainly has potential.

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