Razumovsky Ensemble at Wigmore Hall

Sonatina in G for Violin and Piano, Op.100
Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op.67
Piano Trio in A minor, Op.50

Razumovsky Ensemble [Pavel Vernikov (violin), Oleg Kagan (cello) & Mihaela Ursuleasa (piano)]

Reviewed by: Richard Landau

Reviewed: 18 December, 2009
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Dvořák’s four-movement Sonatina would probably be better known if the composer had called it a Sonata. Written during Dvořák’s American period, its infectious melodies and rhythms have an affinity with such works as the ‘American’ String Quartet and the ‘New World’ Symphony. On this occasion the opening Allegro was decidedly risoluto, while the Larghetto was very touchingly played. Pavel Vernikov opened the scherzo with a striking gypsy-like touch, and overall in this movement, as in the finale, there was a satisfying blend of energy and tenderness.

Shostakovich’s profoundly intense E minor Piano Trio was written as a memorial to Ivan Sollertinsky (who died in 1944), a professor at the Leningrad Conservatoire and a close supporter of the composer. The extreme harmonics of the first movement’s eerie opening are extremely demanding, and the challenges were not entirely disguised on this occasion. Thereafter, the elegiac and nervous character of the music was effectively conveyed, with an eloquent contribution from Mihaela Ursuleasa. The scherzo had the requisite dynamism, albeit there was a hint of stridency. After a committed reading of the profoundly sad Largo, the players vividly transmitted the fear and violence of the finale, especially when the ‘Jewish’ theme that opened the movement made a final appearance prior to the work’s chill conclusion.

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio, likewise a tribute piece, was dedicated to the memory of Nikolai Rubinstein (who had passed away in 1881), the Director of the Moscow Conservatoire and an ardent supporter of Tchaikovsky. The first movement found all three musicians playing with passion and sensitivity, and the nobility of the music was ardently conveyed despite an occasional loss of momentum. Ursuleasa’s playing of the second movement’s ‘Theme’ was as unmannered as it was moving, and the ninth of the ensuing ‘Variations’ – the deeply felt Andante flebile – strongly reflected the memorial impulse behind the work, as did the brief funeral march at the very end.

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