Five Melodies, Op.35a
Sonata for Two Violins, Op.56
Fantasy in C, D934
Janine Jansen & Sakari Oramo (violins) and Itamar Golan (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 11 August, 2014
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London
This was the first of three Proms appearances this season for Janine Jansen. Each is in the company of Sakari Oramo, though on this occasion the conductor was enjoying a less-familiar appearance in his first discipline of violinist. With her regular recital partner Itamar Golan, Jansen gave an endearing and often wistful reading of Five Melodies, originally written by Prokofiev as vocalises for soprano Nina Kochitz. There was an unmistakably vocal element to the phrases from Jansen’s bow, and Golan provided detailed shading. Jansen’s ability to play at a genuine pianissimo highlighted this as a quality seldom found in some other violinists, and one that caught the intricacies of Prokofiev’s writing for what was arguably his favourite instrument save the piano. The muted fourth Melody was appropriately mysterious with its spidery outlines, while the more passionate outpouring of the romantic finale was keenly felt.
Ever the melodist, Prokofiev applied his craft to a pairing of violins for a four-movement Sonata, completed in 1935. It is a work of deceptive simplicity, where the directness of the tuneful writing is achieved through a number of ‘wrong’ notes. Jansen and Oramo had the easy chemistry of a conversation among friends, and Oramo – who took the primo part – tended to be more genial, Jansen a little worrisome. The parts dovetailed neatly, often sounding as one instrument, though the second-movement Allegro was a snappy, staccato argument between the two. A serene third, where the tuning went a little awry in Oramo’s upper register, gave way to a rustic final dance, given in good humour.
Golan rejoined Jansen for one of two works for violin and piano completed by Schubert in the final year of his life. The Fantasy in C is a difficult work to bring off, for it hovers between completely freeform thinking and the guidelines of a sonata, not quite conforming to either. This was the most songful performance I have yet heard, with the theme and variations on Schubert’s song ‘Sei mir gegrüβt’ positioned clearly as the centrepiece. These were beautifully characterised, virtuosic tumbling figures contrasted with a brief canonic section, where Golan held back beautifully. The Allegretto second section (or ‘movement’) was light on its feet, while the uncertainties of the frail-sounding first part were emphatically trounced by the finale, its stern march pulling back for another affectionate account of the song theme.
An already generous concert held an extra treat in the form of Shostakovich’s ‘Praeludium and Waltz’, the first of five pieces he completed for two violins and piano in 1955. Oramo returned for this encore, the performers’ evidently enjoying it.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms