Milton Court Concert Hall
Schubert – Violin Sonata in A major, D 574Stravinsky – Duo concertant
Chanson russe, arr. Samuel Dushkin
Kurtág – Tre pezzi, op.14e
Schubert – Rondo in B minor, D 895
Leila Josefowicz (violin)
John Novacek (piano)
First experiences can prove misleading. Schubert’s A major Violin Sonata, D 574, received a disappointing performance, at least so far as Leila Josefowicz was concerned, but the rest of this recital proved a far more exhilarating experience. Tempi were well chosen in the Schubert, the first movement combining, as the composer requested, Allegro and moderato. John Novacek offered mellow piano tone, as close as a Steinway – a Bösendorfer is surely preferable here – can come to what sounds ‘right’ for Schubert. Josefowicz’s tone, by contrast, varied in seemingly arbitrary fashion, sometimes silvery, sometimes richer, but often quite out of tune. Rhythms were well sprung in the scherzo, which benefited from greater intensity. However, intonational difficulties were all too apparent in the trio. The Andantino flowed well, though again Josefowicz struggled to stay in tune; perhaps surprisingly, the double-stopped passages were not a problem. Novacek, however, offered a supportive bedrock. The finale revived the scherzo’s rhythmic thrust, though the players proved perfectly capable of relaxing too.
Following the interval, Samuel Dushkin’s arrangement of the ‘Chanson russe’ from Mavra offered a very different perspective upon Stravinsky: catchy and, yes, songful, with a flavour I am almost tempted, however inaccurately, to call ‘gypsy’. It made for a slightly odd introduction to Kurtág’s Tre pezzi, save for their shared origins in vocal music. No matter: here the performances were again excellent. The first, ‘Öd und traurig’, offered a calm evocation of lineage from Webern, in a beautifully-controlled performance. Webern again came to the fore in the shard-like opening to the second, ‘Vivo’, though the ensuing violence was perhaps more Bartók-like. In reality, the language is of course very much Kurtág’s own – and so it sounded. A frozen landscape in which, again, every note counted was traced in the third piece, ‘Aus der Ferne’. Tuning, I might add, was impeccable throughout: crucial in the expression of those utterly haunting harmonies. As for those Webern-like sighs, whether in a single part, or passed between violin and piano, they spoke volumes.