Partita in D minor for unaccompanied violin, BWV1004 – Chaconne
Die tote Stadt – Marietta’s Song [transcribed Korngold]; Pierrot’s Dance Song [transc. Kreisler]
Piano Trio No.3 in C minor, Op.101
Nicola Benedetti (violin), Leonard Elschenbroich (cello) & Alexei Grynyuk (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 13 August, 2012
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London
The second of three appearances from Nicola Benedetti at this year’s Proms began with the Bach, a towering milestone in the violin repertoire, but one which here was made to sound conspicuously ‘old’ rather than timeless through use of a suppressed tone and little to no vibrato. Benedetti’s quieter playing was striking, but the passages of multiple-stopping needed more cut and thrust, greater command, and less restriction of the music.
The Proms Chamber Music programme supplies copious biographical information on the artists performing, but omits to provide details of the works being performed, leaving any further insights to the BBC Radio 3 presenter. The Proms Guide suggests that the arrangements of the two arias from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt are both by the composer, which is correct for ‘Marietta’s Song’, but it was Fritz Kreisler who transcribed ‘Pierrot’s Dance Song’. Benedetti played both with obvious affection and warmth, her graceful approach mirrored by Alexei Grynyuk, whose discreet accompaniment brought an attractive turn of phrase. Korngold’s gift as a melodist is far better recognised these days.
The duo became a trio for Brahms, a piece the three instrumentalists clearly enjoyed playing. It was curious to note Grynyuk’s ability to generate volume from very little activity, though his sensitivity for doing so meant he often yielded too much in the balance with the strings. This was a shame in attractive passages of music such as the gurgling commentary of the second subject in the finale, where the humour was otherwise beautifully judged, or in the darker outpourings of the work’s opening pages, the fire evident only in fleeting glimpses. The slow movement was truly stylish, displaying the musical chemistry between Benedetti and Leonard Elschenbroich, friends since school. Their wiry unison in the scherzo, while far from the marked Presto, nonetheless showed attention to detail and keen musicality, the wispy lines conveying the piece’s enigmatic nature.
As an encore the players gave a romantic and captivating account of the slow movement of Schumann’s G minor Piano Trio (Opus 110), with the first principle of chamber music – music to be enjoyed privately in the company of friends – clearly evident.