Sonata No.2 in D minor for Violin and Piano, Op.121
Tai Murray (violin) & Ashley Wass (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 8 July, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The final recital of the 2012-13 BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert season at Wigmore Hall paired music by two pianist-composers who wrote very effectively for the violin. Tai Murray and Ashley Wass got straight to the enchanting spirit of Szymanowski’s Myths, their elusive harmonies and use of quartertones hint at a composition date several decades after that of 1915. This is richly descriptive and exotic music. The piano’s opening cascades in ‘The Fountain of Arethusa’ were beautifully delivered by Wass, although there was the occasional jarring fortissimo from the piano in ‘Dryads and Pan’, but it proved far better for Wass to over-commit in this music. Murray was very restrained in her evocation of Pan’s flute, with ‘distant’ harmonics that were nonetheless crystal-clear. In ‘Narcisse’ there was time to linger and enjoy moments of repose, Murray’s tone secure throughout.
The second of Robert Schumann’s three violin sonatas is his most substantial. Of its four movements, the outer two, both fast, unleash a torrent of notes that can be challenging to shape. Wass has good experience in this piece, having performed it with Ilya Gringolts, and he was the driving force in the emphatic opening of each movement. That is not to say Murray was merely hanging on, for her phrases had pleasing profiles, the stern themes delivered with impressive conviction. The shade and light between the scherzo and its trio was nicely achieved and allowed the reverent chorale of the latter to pave the way for the work’s emotional centre, the Theme and Variations slow movement. Murray plucked the former thoughtfully if a little absently, but the duo was able to explore the intimacy at the heart of one of the most substantial if too little known utterances in Schumann’s instrumental output.