NOCTURNES & DANCES
ALEXANDER TROSTIANSKY (Violin)
with GE XIAOZHE (Piano)
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
2 February 2016)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 4 February 2016 with the title "Violinist shines in series of short pieces".
Every concert-goer knows that some of the best moments of a recital take place at the very end – when encores are performed. So there was much to savour in the recital by Russian violinist Alexander Trostiansky which comprised wholly of encore-like short pieces. His alternating between quiet and slow pieces (the nocturnes) and fast and exciting showpieces (the dances), typically by the same composer, ensured there was much variety on show.
The music of Russian Nikolai Medtner hardly gets performed here, so his tandem of Nocturne (Op.16 No.1) and Dance (from Violin Sonata No.1) was most welcome. The former was no imitation of Chopin, but included fantasy elements which also inhabit his miniatures, the Skazki (Fairy Tales), while the latter was a sentimental sojourn with a scintillating central episode.
Trostiansky possesses an impressive technical facility, with the flexibility to shape the mood and feel of each piece. His string tone is robust and incisive, but never hard, which made listening very much a pleasure.
Three Polish pieces followed, beginning with Chopin's Nocturne (Op.27 No.2) in August Wilhelmj's arrangement. Keeping its long-breathed cantabile melody in perfect intonation was a tall order, thus this was the least satisfying performance of all. Much better was the reading of Wieniawski's Polonaise in D (Op.4) with its blazing fireworks and striding martial rhythm.
The longest work was Szymanowski's Notturno & Tarantella, a built-in microcosm of the concert itself, a sultry and haunting opening leading into a furious and violent dance to the death. Its harrowing pages were negotiated with aplomb, with pianist Ge Xiaozhe's rock-steady accompaniment crucial to its success.
The next three pairs were nationalist in character, the idioms distinguished by ethnomusicology and geography. The Finn Sibelius' lyrically beautiful Nocturne (Op.51 No.3) and folksy Danse Caracteristique (Op.79 No.3) had the feel of the salon, with none of the granite-like resolve of his symphonies.
was unmistakable, with
Trostiansky applying generous portamenti to the blues of the Nocturne, and irrepressible country
fiddling for the Hoe Down from the
ballet Rodeo. Equally distinctive
were the Khachaturian's offerings, a sinuous Armenian melody in the Nocturne (from Masquerade Suite) and a most unbuttoned Sabre Dance (from the ballet Gayaneh),
which received the loudest applause. Americana
Tchaikovsky closed the evening, with his melancholic Nocturne (Op.19 No.4, originally a piano piece) contrasted with the joie de vivre of the Waltz-Scherzo. Has the depression-ridden Russian composed a more carefree and happy piece? The performance radiated that glow of warmth and sunshine. Persuaded by the ovation, the duo offered an encore to top all the other encores, Wieniawski's Oberek (Op.19 No.1), another vigorous Polish dance for good measure.