Jack Liebeck Recital – 29 April

Sonata in G minor (Devil’s Trill)
’… that which echoes in eternity’
Sonata No.3 in D minor, Op.108
JF Brown
Violin Sonata
Sonata No.1 in D minor, Op.75

Jack Liebeck (violin) &
Katya Apekisheva (piano)

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 29 April, 2003
Venue: Purcell Room, London

For his debut recital at the South Bank, Jack Liebeck put together a programme allowing his technical flair and interpretative insight full reign. Two recent pieces by younger British composers were included. ’… that which echoes in eternity’ is Peter Fribbins’s response to lines from Canto VI of Dante’s Inferno. The volatile opening section pits the violin against the piano, culminating in a violent, Bergian outburst for the latter. Here, as throughout the evening, Katya Apekisheva’s pianism was as virtuosic as it was resourceful. The luminous violin figuration that follows levels-off the emotional intensity – leading, via a reflective cadenza-like passage, to the sombre close. An atmospheric and disquieting piece.

As far as comparison is relevant, one might characterise James Francis Brown’s Violin Sonata as airy and equivocal. Premiered at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, the work now features a central ’Presto’ scintillating in its demands on both musicians and, in the Trio, engaging in its delicate whimsy. The opening ’Quasi improvisiazione’ veers between intimacy and rhetoric, its ideas insinuating but not overly defined. That process of recognition is achieved in the final ’Allegretto’, drawing the salient material together in an apex of strongly-felt emotion, before the coda distils a powerful calm and – perhaps in keeping with the ’return to grace’ spoken of by the composer – recalls the later sonatinas of Busoni in its sense of benediction. Suffice to say that the performers were fully attuned to the music’s elusive depths.

Liebeck had opened with Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata – generously expressive in the opening ’Largo’ and trenchant in the ensuing ’Allegro’, but too reticent in the intensifying alternations of ’Andante’ and ’Allegro’ which make possible the pyrotechnics of the cadenza. This was vividly dispatched, though a momentary loss of concentration just before the re-entry of the piano did undermine momentum.

Brahms’s terse and often forceful D minor sonata was given a spacious reading which, at least in the outer movements, seemed a little too concerned to reconcile the music with that of the composer’s earlier, major-key sonatas. If the ’Adagio’ also erred towards the ruminative, Liebeck’s sustained eloquence was in itself a pleasure, while the quixotic character of the Intermezzo had a telling poise.

The recital ended with a strongly-projected account of Saint-Saëns’s First Sonata, its two linked pairs of movements – contrasting and complementary – an entertaining solution to the problem posed by Classical form in the Romantic era, from a composer who straddles the apparent divide between the two. Tension ran high in the opening ’Allegro agitato’, Liebeck bringing off a magical transition into the ’Adagio’ – which was expressive but never cloying. The quicksilver ’Scherzo’ was elegantly done, and Liebeck really drove home the moto perpetuo of the Finale. Eloquence and electricity were equally in evidence, the two being drawn together in an exhilarating coda.

Heady stuff, and Liebeck had enough in reserve for two Kreisler encores – Schön Rosmarin and Liebesleid, neatly turned and an attractive end to a recital in which he and Apekisheva each gave notice of an assured future.

  • For further information about the music of JF Brown and Peter Fribbins: Music Haven

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