Trio becomes duo but the show goes on

6 November 2018

Review: Musica Viva; Benedetti Elschenbroich Grynyuk Trio

Perth Concert Hall, November 5 ∙
Review Sandra Bowdler ∙

Nicola Benedetti is a most magical performer. Barely into her thirties, the violinist has a most distinctive voice and a graceful, muscular and not flamboyant playing style. In a telling post-concert interview she revealed that it was not the instrument she fell in love with (unlike for instance Jacqueline du Pré), so much as the music itself; this is one of those special musicians who embodies and disappears into the music.

This concert was not however a solo showcase but a collaborative venture, if less so than originally planned. Musica Viva’s last concert for the year was designed to present the Benedetti Elschenbroich Grynyuk Trio, but a last minute illness beset cellist Leonard Elschenbroich so Benedetti appeared with pianist Alexei Grynyuk in a hastily prepared concert of works for violin and piano. The original trio program included two works by Prokofiev, an Australian piano trio by Gordon Kerry and Ravel’s Piano trio in A minor. Instead we were favoured with one of the originally scheduled Prokofiev pieces, sandwiched between Brahms’ Violin sonata No 1 in G major (Op 78) and, after interval, Richard Strauss’s Violin sonata in E-flat major (Op 18). The last work was part of an alternative program to be presented in other cities on the tour.

The Brahms, while lacking the fireworks of the subsequent pieces, covers a range of moods. Benedetti showed her warm expressive style from the first notes, with a virtuoso flourish at the end of the first movement followed by focused intensity in the adagio. Grynyuk was the perfect foil with a lyrical interleaving of the two voices in the final allegro.

A complete contrast was provided by Prokofiev’s Violin sonata No 2 in D major, written amidst the modernism of 1944 yet mostly romantic. The first movement with its intricate passages and lyrical phrasing was played sweetly but with a dry finish. The scherzo was as playful as it should be, verging on the arch at times with some frenetic passages. After a soothing andante, the final allegro con brio was Prokofiev in Russian riding-over-the-steppes mood, with more hints of romanticism and a surprisingly dense and exciting finale.

Strauss’s Violin sonata displays his “last vestiges of romanticism”, as put by Rosalind Appleby in her stimulating pre-concert talk, and it is certainly hard to relate it to the Strauss of Elektra and Salome, but not so far removed from the luscious female voice atmosphere of Der Rosenkavalier. The allegro ma non troppo certainly embodied this, with its rousing finish well suited to the talents involved. The middle movement, labelled improvisation: andante cantabile, was suitably lyrical with some of the piano part verging on the florid but counter balanced by some passages sounding almost like ragtime, very well performed by Grynyuk. The pianist also shone in the opening flourish of the last movement, which carried some wisps of Tchaikovsky. Light-hearted interplay between violin and piano moved to a crescendo, but not quite the end, with more playful stuff leading to a predictable but satisfying finale.

After rapturous applause, Benedetti apologised for the lack of an encore in saying “we have played every note of music we have”. Indeed. While this was quite different from the expected performance, it was nonetheless a most exciting and satisfactory night of music.

The Benedetti, Elschenbroich, Grynyuk Trio national tour continues until November 20.

Pictured top L-R Nicola Benedetti, Leonard Elschenbroich, Alexie Grynyuk

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Author —
Sandra Bowdler

Sandra Bowdler is an archaeologist who has been writing about music for some twenty years, most recently for Opera magazine (UK), Bachtrack and Handel News. She is also the author of “Handel’s Operas in Australia, a performance history” Händel Jarhbuch (2017). Her favourite piece of playground equipment would be the picnic bench with smoked salmon sandwiches and champagne.

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