Joshua Bell & Daniil Trifonov at Carnegie Hall

Sonata in D for Piano and Violin, Op.12/1

Sonata No.1 in F-minor for Violin and Piano, Op.80

Baal Shem – II: Nigun

Sonata in A for Violin and Piano

Joshua Bell (violin) & Daniil Trifonov (piano)

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 30 May, 2023
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Originally scheduled for February 28, but postponed when Joshua Bell tested positive for Covid, Bell’s showier performance style contrasted intriguingly with Daniil Trifonov’s more understated manner.  

In Beethoven’s first of ten Sonatas for Piano and Violin, the pair performed it as a fluent and highly spirited conversation, overflowing with confidence and character. In the opening Allegro, Bell endowed his line with soaring warmth and exuberance while Trifonov effortlessly produced a broad array of elaborate articulations, colors and dynamics. In the ensuing Andante, after starting off with a light, fast-paced theme on the keyboard, echoed strongly by the Bell, the music shifted to suggest the tenderness of the violin and the power of the piano before moving into a strong and triumphantly Finale. 

The highlight of the evening was the Prokofiev, who began writing the darkly haunting piece in 1938 and worked on it over the course of World War II, completing it in 1946. The music’s predominantly somber mood, balanced by passages of tender lyricism and heart-breaking vulnerability, was voiced with astonishing clarity by Trifonov. But the softer, more poetic passages spoke strongly too. The tolling funereal figures in the march-like first movement, around which the muted scales of the violin rose and fell, were remarkably resonant. In the Allegro brusco, the joyful violin theme effectively conveyed the Sonata’s passionate, songful side along with its more brutal aspects. That spirit carried over into the third movement where both instruments gently traced a strange, eerily impressionistic dreamscape alongside passages of great strength. The forceful but still buoyant Finale was rendered with singular intensity before ending on a restful recollection of the work’s beginning. 

Following intermission came ‘Nigun’, deeply affecting in its attempts to recreate the spirt of Jewish religious music through a ravishing melody that flows and ebbs before rising to fever pitch and then gently dying away. As interpreted by Bell, it came across as a celebration of violin grandeur as he unfurled the swirling passagework and Trifonov gracefully and gently delivered the restrained accompaniment.

Finally, a flawlessly fluid, commanding account of the Franck. The duo smoothlyshifted moods ranging from the dreamily contemplative to the more brightly spirited. Bell’s superb articulation shaped his phrases in brilliant colors, while Trifonov was no less impressive. In the ‘Recitativo-Fantasia’ an uncommonly impassioned opening gave way to a deeply meditative mood, and in the Finale the instruments soared to their upper registers, the fervently undulating dialogue made electrifying.

Two encores: Clara Schumann’s Romanze, Op.22/1, played simply and elegantly, and a dazzling account of Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No.1, arranged Joachim.

1 thought on “Joshua Bell & Daniil Trifonov at Carnegie Hall”

  1. Moving concert aptly reviewed which enhanced the experience of having been in the audience that night.

    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content