Vilde Frang & Michail Lifits at Wigmore Hall – Mendelssohn, Lutosławski & Brahms

Sonata in F for Violin and Piano
Hungarian Dances [selections: Nos.17, 11 & 2; arr. Joachim]

Vilde Frang (violin) & Michail Lifits (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 25 March, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Vilde Frang © Vyatkin/RIA NovostiMichail Lifits © Felix BroedeThis interesting Wigmore Hall BBC lunchtime programme from Vilde Frang and Michail Lifits included Witold Lutosławski’s Partita (1984), which received a red-blooded performance, no quarter given as Frang and Lifits charged through its giusto and presto passages, handling the challenges with aplomb. The abrupt changes of mood were also keenly observed, and the striking sections where the violinist is called upon to use quartertones made maximum impact. The musicians were also exceptionally responsive to the composer’s requests for aleatorism, creating the feeling of music being born in front of us while not losing the power established by the fully notated score.

Prefacing the Lutosławski was the rarely heard F major Violin Sonata of Mendelssohn, an ebullient work completed in 1838 but unpublished until 1953 when Yehudi Menuhin made available a performing edition. It seems Mendelssohn was dissatisfied with the piece, but in this account and thanks to an abundance of melodic interest it was difficult to hear any drawbacks. The seat-of-the-pants moto perpetuo finale was taken at a daring pace, occasionally threatening to run aground, but was extremely enjoyable. So too the first movement, with its bright and romantic themes, but Lifits was too aggressive initially. The Adagio contrasted lyricism and a darker central section to good effect. The pair finished with three of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances sensitively arranged by his friend Joseph Joachim. In the first piece, Frang’s double-stopping was exemplary, with a nice legato, while the F sharp minor – transposed down a semitone by Joachim – was passionate, breaking into a smile as it reached the major key. Finally No.2 in D minor, transposed to A minor, was rustic but with a little less charm, a note of aggression thankfully subsiding with a brilliantly brought off ‘Scotch snap’ by Frang.

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