Rainer Küchl Recital – 20 December

Sonata in D, Op.12/1
Sonata in D minor, Op.108
Fantasie appassionata, Op.35
Polonaise in D
Serenade (Suite?) in A

Rainer Küchl (violin) &
Hiroshi Kato (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 20 December, 2002
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Rainer Küchl is probably better known as one of the Concertmasters of the Vienna Philharmonic. He is also a teacher, leads an eponymous string quartet, and is a concerto soloist and recital-giver. In short, he is a cultured player who mixes in the best of musical circles. Küchl’s professorial side was in evidence during this evening; his readings were conscientious if studied.

As early as halfway through Beethoven’s first movement, Küchl suggested he had exhausted his expressional and tonal resources. So it proved. While his playing was ’good’, something like Vieuxtemps’s long-winded (or so it seemed) Fantasie needs more than merely playing it. Some of it sounded sight-read, which was certainly true of the Wieniawski – too fast, clipped, and both players struggled.

Hiroshi Kato is ’good’ too. Attentive and accommodating, and generally secure, there was little evidence of a true interrelationship between the two musicians; Kato played dutifully. Such limitations undermined the duo aspects of the two sonatas; it’s worth noting that Beethoven designated his for piano with violin obbligato.

As the recital wore on, the music seemed cross-referenced. The particular ingredients that could have made each piece more individual were missing from the mix. Jean Françaix’s Stravinsky-fied insouciant sonata was heavy-handed and too strict. Zemlinsky’s Serenade in A major (sic) was more the Suite that the Wigmore brochure promised. But then the programme note was inadequate; £2 was asked for this bit of folded card! Once past the ear-catching, village-fiddling of the first movement, the Suite (or Serenade) fell flat; the five or six movements that followed – the programme failed to list them – were really quite undistinguished.

Questions were being asked. What has happened to the typically sweet-sounding and lyrical Viennese style of violin playing? Küchl’s over-stressed accents and hard, penetrating E string gave an imbalance across the instrument’s range. Somebody was heard to say that Küchl was “going down the Vengerov road”. This was no compliment! A potentially rapturous moment in Brahms’s slow movement was thrown away as if not there.

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