Tuesday, 28 July 2015


Violin Recital with 
Lee Foundation Theatre
Sunday (26 July 2015)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 28 July 2015 with the title "Violinist and pianist display solid technique".

There are so many incredibly talented young violinists studying in conservatories around the world that it is impossible to count them all. Just witness the Singapore International Violin Competition in January, where margins separating each artist were so fine that the decisions to reward some and eliminate others seemed almost arbitrary. So count oneself lucky to have even heard any of them perform, and the same would apply to young Russian-American violinist Elizabeth Basoff-Darskaia who made her Singapore debut this evening.

Her teachers are a Who's Who of the instrument, including Ruggiero Ricci, Aaron Rosand, Pamela Frank and Boris Kuschnir. Perhaps one of them might have advised on her sequence of programming, because it is murder to open a recital cold with Brahms' demanding Violin Sonata No.3 in D minor (Op.108). Both performers and listeners have yet to fully warm up, and the results could be half-cooked or disappointing.

Thankfully, she had the technique to sustain its four movements with a sweet and somewhat slender tone on the 1745 Carlo Bergonzi violin on loan from the Rin Collection. The faster outer movements fared best while the slow movement came across as prosaic, and the playful scherzo on the staid side. By the time of Saint-Saëns' Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso, she had fully warmed up and pulled out all stops for a virtuoso display.

For her unaccompanied segment, Paganini's Caprice No.19 sounded exposed at its fastest bits, where the running notes were a blur. Much better was the Bach Chaconne in D minor which confidently opened the second half, with a more fulsome tone, perfect intonation and masterly pacing. This was the work she should have begun her recital with.

What followed was a lovely reading of Mozart's Sonata in B flat major (K.454), which displayed sensitivity and utmost sympathy for the Rococo style. Simplicity of form and beauty of lines ruled here. By now, one would have wondered who the pianist in the recital was. Young Singaporean pianist Jonathan Shin was every bit an equal partner in Mozart, Brahms and Saint-Saëns, a solid rock upon which the recital stood. So why was he referred to as just an accompanist and his biography not included?    

The recital closed with the Carmen Fantasy by Hungarian violin virtuoso Jenö Hubay, a refreshing departure from the frequently-heard Sarasate and Waxman incarnations. This version was more improvisatory, had more showy cadenzas, and included the Fate motif, Micaela's Air and Toreador Song before romping home with the scintillating Bohemian Dance.

Both performers received the loudest cheers and rhythmic applause. As there was no pre-prepared encore, Basoff-Darskaia emerged from the wing sans violin to play Chopin's Étude in F minor (Op.25 No.2) on the piano flawlessly and with teasing rubato. Further cheers brought out pianist Shin and the finale from the Brahms sonata was reprised. This time it sounded well done, and close to perfection.

A meeting of Russian virtuosos:
Elizabeth Basoff-Darskaia with
former SSO Concertmaster Alexander Souptel. 

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