Timothy Young (piano)
Government House Ballroom
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Beethoven’s Sonata in A, opus 47 is one of the most powerfully dramatic works in the repertoire for violin and piano. Better known as the Kreutzer Sonata, it was dedicated to violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer who is nowadays most remembered for his villainously taxing violin studies and who never got round to playing Beethoven’s masterpiece.
Its seething emotions have triggered creativity in others: Janacek’s String Quartet No 1 is subtitled The Kreutzer Sonata – and famed Russian writer Leo Tolstoy gave the name to his famous short story about murderous jealousy.
The Beethoven work was far and away the most satisfying offering in a recital by Daniel Kossov (making a welcome return visit to the city) and Timothy Young whose artistry at the keyboard makes him constantly in demand as a piano partner.
The Kreutzer Sonata doesn’t often appear on recital programs. Its unforgiving difficulties call for a cool head, an iron nerve and the stamina of an Olympic athlete. On all counts, Kossov and Young came up trumps, not least in relation to tonal balance which had not been as equitable as one would have hoped in the first half of the program in which at times, piano tone was too dominant in relation to the violin line. But in the Beethoven sonata, the duo could not be faulted on these grounds.
The imperiousness and virility that are the essence of much of the first movement came across strongly notwithstanding the occasional flaw. But then, who climbs Mount Everest without stubbing a toe on the way?
Musicianship of high order informed every measure of the slow movement. The light-hearted buoyancy of variation one was gauged to a nicety and the near-ethereal, finely spun trills that are the prevailing feature of the concluding variation could hardly have been bettered.
In the finale, the duo brought unflagging, spring-heeled fleetness to some of the most treacherous measures the master ever wrote. This was, in the best sense, a wild ride in which the smallest miscalculation could have brought the performance to grief but from which both Kossov and Young emerged with honour intact to a storm of deserved applause.
A fascinating compilation included that rarity: Hindemith’s eminently approachable Sonata in E flat from opus 11. In less than expert hands, the first movement can wither embarrassingly on the vine. Not so here, in a reading that allowed extroversion on the part of the piano and the violin’s lyrical, emotionally probing line to register strongly on the consciousness. I particularly liked the piano’s simulation of a tolling bell in the second movement and the eeriness of mood summoned up by the violin.
Dvorak’s engagingly melodious and folksy Sonatina in G was disappointing with violin tone often far too discrete and piano tone overbearing suggesting that at the opening of the recital neither musician had taken the full measure of the venue’s acoustics.
But a bracket of rarities by Aaron Copland was pure delight. Here, there was fine internal tonal balance in two arrangements for violin and piano of extracts from the score of cowboy ballet Billy the Kid: the Waltz with its quaintly wistful charms and Celebration, memorable for its whining double stopping and jazzy measures from the piano, both pieces preceded by a quite exquisitely dreamlike Nocturne.
Collectors of music trivia might be interested to know that both Copland and Billy were born in New York’s Brooklyn.
As encore, we heard Dvorak’s evergreen Humoresque.
Copyright 2006 Neville Cohn