Nicola Benedetti & Alexei Grynyuk at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Elgar and Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata

Sonata in E minor for Piano and Violin, K304
Sonata in E minor for Violin and Piano, Op.82
Sonata in A for Piano and Violin, Op.47 (Kreutzer)

Nicola Benedetti (violin) & Alexei Grynyuk (piano)

Reviewed by: Alan Sanders

Reviewed: 24 January, 2015
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Nicola Benedetti.Photograph: concert celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Wigmore Hall Learning initiative, which seeks to bring classical music to those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience it and involves professional musicians working with children, performances for elderly people with dementia and much else.

Though she looked perfectly assured for the opening item, Nicola Benedetti’s playing at the beginning of the two-movement Mozart Sonata was strangely tentative, and the tone she extracted from her 1717 ‘Gariel’ Stradivarius was too soft-grained and poor in quality. It’s true that Mozart conceived his ‘violin sonatas’ as giving the piano a major role (Beethoven similarly), but here the highly competent Alexei Grynyuk was shouldering more responsibility for projecting the musical argument than was his due. The performance continued in this vein, with Benedetti’s contribution having an almost laconic, disengaged quality.

Alexei GrynyukPhotograph: www.grynyuk.comThe demands of Elgar’s Violin Sonata produced a more positive response from Benedetti. The dynamic range of her playing became wider; her tone quality was more satisfactory, though still not of the best, and she seemed more involved in the music. But her projection of the Sonata’s changing moods was not entirely convincing, and though there were passages where the playing of musicians reached good levels of expression and communication there were also patches of poor intonation and generally shaky technique on the part of Benedetti.

The reading of Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata was on a generally higher level. The duo showed a good deal of vitality and commitment in the opening movement, but the variations of the second were rather poorly defined. Benedetti and Grynyuk took the finale at quite a fast tempo, and played it well with good spirit and technique.

For an encore we heard a transcription of ‘Marietta’s Lied’ from Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt. This produced the best playing of the evening from Benedetti, for her phrasing of the melody was beautiful, and at last she produced a lovely, golden tone.

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