Command of violin enriches his playing

Vadim Repin brings intensity to music


January 22, 2003|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Virtuosos are a dollar a dozen these days; true musical artists remain as rare as ever. Put violinist Vadim Repin in the latter category. He epitomizes the marriage of virtuosity and artistry, as he reaffirmed in a recital Sunday afternoon for the Shriver Hall Concert Series.

Barely into his 30s, the Siberian-born fiddler possesses a disarming command of the instrument. Consistency of pitch and precision of articulation can be taken for granted, whatever the speed or dynamic level. From the wispy slithering up and down the scale that haunts Prokofiev's F minor Sonata to the full-force, hyper-animation of Ravel's Tzigane, everything was perfectly under control here.

The intensity and claret-rich tone of Repin's violin was another source of continual pleasure. A full-sized grand piano with its lid all the way up proved no threat to that sound, even though accompanist Boris Berezovsky, another young-30s Russian, is no slouch in the virtuosity department himself. Repin more than held his own, no matter how much volume the pianist summoned.

Neither man seemed capable of producing an empty measure. The Prokofiev sonata, in particular, inspired deeply considered music-making. The ache behind so many of the notes sounded more piercing than ever in Repin's astute phrasing; Berezovsky was no less sensitive to the music's inner drama.

Grieg's robustly romantic G major Sonata found Repin in remarkably rhapsodic form, but always careful not to slip into the sentimental. And if his account of Tartini's "Devil's Trill" Sonata was not exactly the last word on 18th-century performance practice, his vibrant, large-gesture approach was certainly engaging. Here and there, Chausson's Poeme could have benefited from a gentler touch (on violin and keyboard); the music's refined lyricism, though, still emerged effectively. For an encore, there was a delicious romp through Tchaikovsky's Waltz-Scherzo.

If you missed Repin this time, don't even think about passing up his collaboration next month with Yuri Temirkanov and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to kick off the Vivat! St. Petersburg festival.

Solid performance

Another highlight last weekend was the Budapest Festival Orchestra, presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society at the Kennedy Center. Founded only 20 years ago, the ensemble quickly made a solid name for itself under the imaginative guidance of founding music director Ivan Fischer. Saturday afternoon's performance easily explained the success.

For one thing, these musicians really play. The opening notes of Wagner's Die Meistersinger Prelude had a visceral charge, and the urgency never abated. Fischer's broad tempos took some sparkle and charm out of the piece (Meistersinger, after all, is a comic opera), but you couldn't have asked for much more nobility of feeling. The strings made a warm, silky sound; the brass and woodwinds blended smoothly.

Those attributes continued through the rest of the program, devoted to Liszt, one of Hungary's greatest, often undervalued contributors to music.

With powerhouse Russian pianist Denis Matsuev as soloist and Fischer coaxing a taut response from his orchestra, the Totentanz received such an electric, no-holds-barred performance that I was almost convinced - for the first time - that this noisy deconstruction of the ancient Dies Irae chant really is a great piece. The quirky, tradition-rattling side of Liszt could not have been clearer. Matsuev generated spectacular fireworks at the keyboard, while never slighting the few opportunities for subtlety.

A Faust Symphony is an ambitious creation that can try the patience of unsympathetic listeners. The rest of us respond to the rare genius behind it. Each movement - representing, in turn, Faust, Marguerite and Mephistopheles - creates a drama of its own; together, they conjure up the essence of the Faust legend. Naturally, the devil ends up with the best tunes and clearly has the best time. By fashioning those tunes from the ones given earlier to Faust, Liszt unifies and intensifies the symphony.

It's a long work, but it never seemed long, thanks to Fischer's ability to maintain the continuity of thought, even during the score's most unsettled or diffuse moments. (He used the original version of the piece, not the more commonly heard one with tenor and male chorus.) The conductor's attentiveness pointed up the foreshadowing of Wagner's Tristan in the opening movement and the remarkable colors of the orchestration, especially the delicate woodwind ones in the second movement. The orchestra had a couple of tired moments, but again offered extraordinary commitment, sensitivity and, in the finale, terrifically bravura playing.

Music by Candlelight

After Vadim Repin's recital on Sunday, I made it to Second Presbyterian Church in time to hear most of the latest Chamber Music by Candlelight presentation, showcasing Baltimore Symphony Orchestra members.

There was a particularly successful account of Brahms' Horn Trio, one that caught the music's moodiness and sublimated passions. Philip Munds' velvety horn playing was nicely complemented by the expressive efforts of violinist Andrew Wasyluszko; pianist Lisa Wasyluszko did not always fully realize the technical aspects of the part, but was always on the same interpretive wave-length.

Max Reger's Serenade for flute, violin and viola - an unusual all-treble sound - is inflected with a playful touch of Richard Strauss. The work's considerable charms emerged in a mostly smooth-toned performance by flutist Bonnie Lake, violinist Craig Richmond and violist Karin Brown.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.