Michael Traub
1 minute read
20 Mar 2014
8:00 am

New discoveries

Michael Traub

It was a good idea to start this concert with just one of the three movements of a Beethoven violin sonata, his first of a series of 10.

It gave the artists and the listeners the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the sound of the violin in the auditorium at Northwards. Thereafter the programme was generally much more exotic.

Abraham Mennen played Borne’s Fantasy on Bizet’s Carmen, followed by two extracts from Stravinsky’s groundbreaking ballet, The Rite of Spring.

The latter music, in particular, worked very well as a composition for saxophone and piano. Less effective was the saxophone version of Bartok’s Six Rumanian Folkdances, very well known in its original form for piano solo. If the music represents folk instruments as Bartok originally heard them, the saxophone was entirely unrepresentative of such instruments. Moreover, the performance lacked rhythmic crispness, a sine qua non for this music.

Even more exotic was a Violin Sonata by Karen Khachaturian, who was a man (despite the name) and a nephew, apparently, of the more famous Aram Khachaturian. This beautiful sonata was a real discovery for me, and Jacqueline Wedderburn-Maxwell, the violinist, later told me that she got to know about the music from a recording by David Oistrakh. Why it is not more often played is a mystery.

Wedderburn-Maxwell also gave a heartfelt and tonally alluring account of the Meditation from Thais by Massenet.

Jungle was a piece for unaccompanied saxophone by Christian Lauba (born in 1952). The composer here has sought to find new sounds on the instrument. Slightly more traditional was the same composer’s Devil’s Rag, a much better piece than the endless succession of rags by Scott Joplin.

The closing work was a version by the three musicians of the Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Sleeping Beauty.

The performance lacked elan and sounded quite slow.