Monday, 24 September 2012

ALEXANDER SITKOVETSKY AND WU QIAN / Violin and Piano Recital / Review

with WU QIAN, Piano
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Friday (21 September 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 24 September 2012 with the title "Watch and learn from up-and-comers".

Ones To Watch is an annual series at the Conservatory that showcases young artists who are rising stars in the universal musical firmament. This year’s offering was the London-based duo of Russian violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and Chinese pianist Wu Qian, who performed a demanding programme of sonatas, one that would not look out of place in Wigmore Hall.

If the name Sitkovetsky sounds familiar, that is because Alexander is the nephew of violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky and grand-nephew of pianist Bella Davidovich, Russian virtuosos well-known from their many recordings. Much of the pedigree has rubbed on, evident in the blistering performance of Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata in F minor. From its morose opening through to the rants and raves of the ironic finale, he displayed an astonishing range of colours and emotions. 

Allying faultless intonation with a voluminous tone, his control was one to admire, not least in the mysterious third movement, where the fine balance of both instruments playing pianissimo was kept on a knife-edge. Despite the undisguised dissonance and barbed aggression of much in the music, Prokofiev was not one to resist a good tune, and when these arose, the duo responded with grateful lyricism.

The 50-minute long first half began with the romantic ardour of Schumann’s First Violin Sonata in A minor. The psychological upheavals in the German’s music were well realised, contrasting plaintive singing in the slow movement with the furious perpetual motion of its frenzied finale.

The shorter second half was subject to less storm and stress. Mozart’s congenial A major Sonata (K.305) still had its fair share of highs, the limpid and sensitive pianism of Wu now taking the lead. The theme and variations, based on a graceful minuet, provided the work’s main focus and delight.

The recital proper closed with Grieg’s popular Third Violin Sonata, opening with a Beethovenian emphatic statement of intent in C minor. The force of personality both performers kept up the tension throughout, before the most heartrending of melodies defined the slow movement. A vigorous Norwegian dance dominated the last movement which provided a cheery and folksy end.

The applause-happy audience, which could not resist clapping inappropriately in between movements for much of the evening, was rewarded with two encores. Elgar’s Salut d’amour was given that most alluring of lilts, and Vittorio Monti’s gypsy Csardas saw Sitkovetsky applying some individual flourishes of his own, a touch of caprice to a most satisfying evening of great chamber music.


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