Jack Liebeck & Katya Apekisheva

Sonata for Piano and Violin in B flat, K378
Sonata for Violin and Piano in F, Op.57
Sonata for Violin and Piano
Sonata for Violin and Piano

Jack Liebeck (violin) & Katya Apekisheva (piano)

Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker

Reviewed: 8 April, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Jack Liebeck. Photograph: Tim MearaThis was very much a programme of two halves, in that the first, made up of sonatas by Mozart and Dvořák, were none too well projected. In the first place, Jack Liebeck stood in completely the wrong position, slightly behind Katya Apekisheva’s right shoulder, which meant that – especially in the Mozart – there was no eye contact between the musicians, and therefore precious little contact of other kinds, the partners exhibiting little in the way of give-and-take, in ensemble and unanimity of expression. Liebeck’s tone was not of the most consistent quality, and it was a pity also that Apekisheva’s instrument was on full stick, with the result that she could not help but mostly dominate the texture. Occasionally, we heard the fine pianissimo of which she is capable, but Liebeck was at times virtually inaudible, his dynamic range being too great for this music.

Many of the foregoing comments could be applied to Dvořák’s rarely-heard Sonata, which ideally demands a rare combination of factors from those who elect to play it – such as a profound structural sense allied to a realisation of the melodic line that is at times inwardly lyrical and at others outwardly lively in the best Bohemian manner. Sadly, these were not apparent on this occasion.

Katya Apekisheva. Photograph: katyaapekisheva.comThe second half brought a transformation in Frank Bridge’s Sonata, completed in 1932. At once, in the opening phrase, Liebeck and his Apekisheva were in their element, his tone especially being now full and rich, and wholly committed in terms of genuine belief in this scandalously neglected masterwork. This was a performance of distinction.

Ravel’s broadly contemporaneous Sonata was equally superbly played, causing one to revise the general opinion that this is one of the master’s weaker scores. However, it is not fit to be compared with the great Piano Trio that preceded it, but in a performance of this quality one is certainly prepared to have second or third thoughts. Yet it was odd to read, in Brian Foster’s programme note, that Ravel’s works are now given with opus numbers – this Sonata being, apparently, his Opus 77 – which nonsensical listing the composer never applied to his works himself.

On the strength of his playing in the second half of this recital, Jack Liebeck should at once be snapped up by any self-respecting record company: in the 20th-century works he showed himself to be an artist of notable attainments and of considerable promise. In this he was very finely partnered by Katya Apekisheva, a pianist of considerable artistry.

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