City of London Festival – Tai Murray & Gilles Vonsattel

Sonata in B flat for Piano and Violin, K378
Sonata in D minor for Violin, Op.27/3 (Ballade)
Sonata No.1 in F minor for Violin and Piano, Op.80

Tai Murray (violin) & Gilles Vonsattel (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 29 June, 2009
Venue: St Anne and St Agnes, Gresham Street, London EC2

Tai Murray. Photograph: Robin HollandThis early evening concert was originally scheduled for St Lawrence Jewry, the church of the City of London, but was sensibly moved to the neighbouring church of St Anne and St Agnes at the last minute, avoiding a potentially Ivesian sound clash with the jazz performance taking place outside the Guildhall.

In the event it may not have been possible to hear the jazz, so impressive was the sound projection of New York-born violinist Tai Murray. She was able to perform Ysaÿe’s Third Sonata from a relatively stationary position, standing stock-still with head straight as she played. The sound was full, the frequent passages of multiple-stopping immaculately played and the difficult technical areas smoothed over most impressively.

Rough edges seem to suit the music of Ysaÿe, and Enescu – to whom this sonata was dedicated – yet Murray provided a controlled and convincing alternative here, one that retained a keen outpouring of emotion. This was also the case in the Prokofiev, which received an extremely robust performance

Gilles Vonsattel. Photograph: Jean-Claude CaptThe “wind in the graveyard” Prokofiev evokes so effectively was difficult to identify with on its two appearances, given the soaring temperatures, but Murray’s very soft pianissimo took us remarkably close. Unfortunately, elsewhere the dynamic became too loud, and was not helped by the unusual acoustic of the church, with its squat design and high ceiling. At times the pair launched a remorseless attack on Prokofiev’s louder music, with the heavy piano left-hand and shrill upper-register violin powerful but rather too cutting at times. This approach was more valid in a hard hitting scherzo, with even the trio offering little respite.

The Mozart, too, was a little on the loud side, Murray’s confident approach yielding a bright tone that occasionally struggled to pierce Vonsattel’s florid right-hand passagework. The Andantino was graceful, however, the pair’s phrasing drawing back a little, while Vonsattel’s nimble fingerwork ensured clarity was a feature of the finale.

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