Alan Cooper Reviews: Lana Trotovšek & Yoko Misumi



Friday, 04 November 2016

The fabulous violin and piano duo comprising Lana Trotovšek, originally from Slovenia and Yoko Misumi from Japan, were making their third visit to Aberdeenshire on Friday evening. They will be appearing again in another soundfestival concert in Monymusk at 3pm this Sunday. Let me tell you, they are hugely worth going to see and hear. Their Aboyne programme featured two new pieces by contemporary composers in addition to a Suite by Alfred Schnittke who only died as recently as 1998. Of the three other pieces, Grieg’s Violin Sonata No 2 in G Major, Op. 13 was composed in 1867, Massenet’s Méditation de Thaïs is from an opera premièred in 1894 and Tartini’s Violin Sonata in g minor known as the “Devil’s Trill Sonata” is reckoned by Tartini scholars to have been composed around 1740. I give the dates to suggest that only the Violin Sonata by John Hearne composed in 2015, Emotions by the Northern Irish composer Roma Cafolla (she is of Italian extraction) and possibly Suite in the Old Style by Schnittke qualify as contemporary soundfestival pieces. Let us take these first.

The title of Schnittke’s Suite should suggest that this music is not at the cutting edge of contemporary style. The five movements transcribed from the composer’s film scores harked back not just in its titles but in its sounds and musical textures to the baroque era although they were obviously by a modern composer. The first two movements, Pastorale and Ballet had a definite sense of nursery music in their easy going tunes. The other three movements were more complex and all of them had a touch of easy listening quality about them. The duo played them faultlessly and they made excellent warm up pieces.

Roma Cafolla’s music also harked back to an earlier age- this time the Romantic. The two outer movements of Emotion were very much like the sort of dazzling show pieces by composers like Sarasate perhaps? Lana Trotovšek’s playing fairly sparkled in these movements. They enclosed a sumptuous, full blown romantic movement enriched by Lana’s ravishing performance. There were whole long sections of double stopping played perfectly in tune. Yoko Misumi matched Lana with delicious piano playing in this work.

The piece that ran off with the soundfestival laurels in this concert however was John Hearne’s utterly brilliant Sonata for Violin and Piano. It opened with a statement for piano and violin of a short dramatic motif which was at the core of the first movement. The music proceeded with intense energy in which rhythmic variety easily carried the deliberately spare thematic material forward with unstoppable intensity. Not a note was wasted. Everything made sense. It was as if the music had always been there somewhere in the ether and John Hearne had simply revealed it rather than composed it. The slower central movement was a marvellous conversation between violin and piano which concluded surprisingly and yet could have gone no other way once it had been heard. The Scherzo finale echoed material from the other movements in a very special way so that the whole piece made perfect sense. Here was a fully contemporary work that had been refined by the composer until it crystallised without any hint of impurities – absolutely no wasted notes from its beginning to its logical point of arrival. The two performers matched one another to perfection in this piece in which John Hearne demanded and got precision, energy and perfect musical synergy.

The opening movement of Grieg’s Second Violin Sonata was rich in characterful thematic material. A dramatic opening statement led to more songlike material delivered with great feeling by the violin.

The serene piano opening of the second movement led to more songlike material and then the spirit of the dance took over. The finale was marked by fine crisp piano playing from Yoko Misumi.

Lana played the Tartini Sonata entirely from memory – amazing considering how many notes there are in it. If Roma Cafolla’s piece had aspects of technical showmanship, Tartini’s Sonata went well beyond that. Ornamentations were dazzling. At one point I almost expected to see athletic Russian dancers come on stage dancing to Lana’s violin playing then near the end came a series of ornamentations where the violin almost seemed to be yodelling. Before that there were passages where the strength and rich full throated tone from Lana’s violin was all encompassing – what a marvellously accomplished performance from these two girls.

They delighted the audience with their final piece, Massenet’s Méditation from Thaïs played as if an encore. The audience departed fully satisfied.

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