Jessica Ipkendanz (violin and voice)

Conservatorium Auditorium


reviewed by Neville Cohn


For violinists, surely one of the most formidable challenges must be the presentation of an unaccompanied recital – not least because most of the repertoire is horrendously difficult to bring off successfully. Here, the slightest lapse, be it of intonation, notational accuracy or stylistic vagary, is at once glaringly evident. So it was with particular interest that one listened to Jessica Ipkendanz in that loftiest peak of unaccompanied expression – Bach’s Partita in D minor.

This is unforgiving, unforgettable music, not least the massive Chaconne that brings the Partita to a conclusion.

There is about Ipkendanz’s platform presence, a strength of purpose – some might say it verges on defiance – striding to centre stage and with no fuss and little ceremony, launching into Annunciation, her own composition. She plays as if totally absorbed, wielding her bow like some enchanted spear as measure after measure of the most passionately intense music pours from the violin.

Then, quite unexpectedly, the playing ceases to be an unaccompanied offering as Ipkendanz, startlingly, begins to sing – a wordless vocalise, which projects arrow-like, to the furthest corners of the venue – to an accompaniment of robust violin arabesques. Here, one would very much have liked to have had an explanatory program note regarding the genesis and development of this remarkable offering.

It is a most unusual experience that sears itself into the memory.

Then the Partita: the sense of power that had informed Annunciation is everywhere apparent here. Like all the rest of the program, it is played from memory. Her tempi are invariably sensible, her rhythm rock-solid. And the grandeur that is the essence of so much of the work, especially the Chaconne, is revealed.

On the debit side of this otherwise splendidly healthy musical balance sheet is tonal monotony, an almost unvaryingly substantial sound. Could this perhaps be a miscalculation in coming to terms with the venue’s
notoriously bright acoustics? But it is only on this count that the offering is less than satisfying.

In the Sarabande, chords are wonderfully well sustained and the Gigue is a joyful, vigorous prelude to the Chaconne, a monumental challenge that is met in the most unhurried and dignified way.

Ipkendanz’s own Obsession is the final work which, stylistically, makes a lavish obeisance to Wieniawski. Whining double stopping and chassidic-like minor-key melodies make this compelling listening.

Copyright 2006 Neville Cohn

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