Before a note of this imaginative ‘Parisian’ programme had been played, we knew from those soulful open strings as Daniel Rowland tuned up that we had on stage a violin that loved to be played and a player that loved to play it. And how!
Rowland’s passion for the music shone through every one of the evening’s very different works.
From the poignant sorrow of Mozart’s E-minor sonata following his mother’s death, to the wild virtuosity of Stravinsky, this was no mere display, but a powerful communication of the heart of the music.
There were of course three other participants: a piano, a pianist, and a bow.
Natacha Kudritskaya complemented Rowland superbly, augmenting his intensity and adding a touch of discipline when appropriate.
At times, as in the Franck Sonata, she could make the piano sound twice its size, while at others, such as in Mozart’s E-major Trio, she produced the most delicate of heart-rending pianissimos.
And then there is the bow. Rowland’s bow arm is that of a magician, albeit a very energetic one. Stravinsky’s pyrotechnics proved too much for his favourite old bow/wand which started to shed hairs at an alarming rate, allowing the concert to double as a nicely-controlled experiment in the importance of the bow in string instrument playing. Bow No.2 featured in the second half, and I for one was happy that the now slightly bald bow No.1 was reinstated for the encore – Stravinsky again but in a mostly gentle mood.
The programme itself consisted entirely of pieces associated with Paris: from Mozart, composing on a rather unsuccessful visit in 1778, to Stravinsky arranging the Fairy’s Kiss ballet in 1934. Though the Mozart and Stravinsky pieces reflect little of Paris, the remaining works show both the developing French style in Franck and Boulanger and the cosmopolitan influence that Paris nurtured in its resident composers: Egyptian, Spanish and English for Debussy and Spanish/Basque for Ravel. The result was a varied and entertaining series of works that contrasted well and allowed both Kudritskaya and Rowland to show how well they could convey the essence of a range of musical styles and moods.
All too often players appear on stage, play and depart as if we are watching a live relay.
Rowland and Kudritskaya interacted masterfully with the audience.
Especially sensitive was their acknowledgment of the attentive presence of four young children from the Prebendal School in the front rows. I asked them what I should put in my review. “Brilliant”. It was. I hope they come back for more.
A large audience greeted Daniel Rowland (violin) and Natacha Kudritskaya (piano) on their first visit to Kendal as guests of the Midday Concert Club …
Their Kendal programme was dominated by César Franck’s lovely Violin Sonata, but before that we heard works by Stravinsky and Ravel.
Stravinsky’s ‘Divertimento for Violin and Piano, after The Fairy’s Kiss’ opened the programme. The work reuses material the composer originally wrote for his ballet, itself based on the music of Tchaikovsky – melodies which Stravinsky had known since his childhood. It is a colourful piece and, as one would expect of ballet music, complex rhythmically, and technically demanding for both players who rose to its varied demands brilliantly.
Daniel Rowland’s style of playing is theatrical: he moves around his performing space, bending and stretching in response to the music, and his balletic style suited this particular piece. In contrast, Natacha Kudritskaya is restrained in her pianistic gestures: her many bravura moments were accomplished without excess movements, but nevertheless with great effect. This combination of theatricality and restraint immediately drew the audience into a performance which was electric.
One of the many impressive features of both musicians’ playing was their ability to move from an extreme pianissimo sound to a climatic fortissimo passage while maintaining a perfect balance between the two instruments.
When the grand piano is fully open, there is always a danger that it can overwhelm a string instrument: this it did not do (at least not up in the balcony).
Next on the programme came a sensitive performance of Ravel’s charming, short Pièce en forme de habanera.
Again, each player caught the atmosphere of this sultry piece with Daniel Rowland relishing a chance to show what a beautiful legato line he could produce in this song without words.
Finally came César Franck’s mighty sonata, a work so well-known and loved by violinists.
The duo gave us a masterly performance marked by subtly of phrasing, strong tone and carefully graded dynamics.
An encore, Kreisler’s Liebesleid, sent us all home happy.
George Enescu Works for Violin and Piano
Rowland Kudritskaya Duo
The Romanian composer George Enescu (1881/1955) wrote a lot of chamber music including works for violin and piano. His imaginative compositions are beautifully performed here by the Dutch/English violinist Daniel Rowland and the pianist Natacha Kudritskaya from the Ukraine.
George Enescu was a Romanian violinist, composer, conductor and teacher (educated the young violinist Yehudi Menuhin) who studied by Jules Massenet and Gabriel Fauré in Vienna and later Paris. His compositions show characteristics of the Late Romantic style, the French music from the early 20th century, with its frequent use of chromatics and Romanian folk music, which you hear in the ‘Violin Sonata No 3 in A-Minor Op. 25‘, the opening piece of this wonderful CD. The gypsy scale, Romanian themes and the way of playing show a Romanian (Gypsy) signature which is amazingly energetically and subdued.
The duo Daniel Rowland / Natacha Kudritskaya performs the compositions with energetic precision. The implementation is very accurate. Their musical approach is delicious and inextricably linked to the listener. Intimate passages also sound really pleasing and intimate while the dynamic parts are excellently energetic and lively.
Like his youth work, the ‘Violin Sonata in F minor,opus 6′ that Enescu wrote when he was 17 years old, the last piece ‘Impressions d’Enfance’ reflects on his childhood, on the magical but also bleak side of his early years when his mother told him not to play with other children, afraid as she was that he would become sick.
The capricious composition opens with a distinctive violin solo. The piano enters in a lovely and finely played twinkling mood.
This composition reflects the uncertainty as well as the continuation of one of the most remarkable composers from Romania in the 20th century.
Loose translation of the Dutch review
George Enescu Works for Violin and Piano
Champs Hill Records CHRCD120
Violinist Daniel Rowland and pianist Natacha Kudritskaya begin their program of works by the Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu with a reading of his colorful Third Sonata, “dans le caractère populaire roumain,” that, in the first of its three movements, Moderato malinconico, misses few opportunities for communicating to listeners with bold gestures—in this case sharply defined, dynamically contrasted ones rendered exceptionally exotic by raw, smeary portamentos.
Two generations ago, I heard Isaac Stern make a similar impression in a live performance of the sonata; but in the auditorium the audience could watch as he lobbed pulverized musical phrases at one individual listener after another, making penetrating eye contact with each. I’d have been scared out of my wits if I’d been sitting in a front row.
Rowland and especially Kudritskaya fully indulge the mystery implied in the second movement’s title, Andante sostenuto e misterioso. Their command of timbral nuance hardly suggests makes their playing sound tightly controlled; at times they skirt close to the brink of abandon. In the finale, Allegro con brio, ma non troppo mosso, they once again make Enescu’s fragmentary gesticulations seem larger than life, especially in the tumultuous last page.
Throughout the sonata, in fact, they amply provide the kind of authenticity you might expect to hear from violinists such as Ivry Gitlis, Ida Haendel, Isaac Stern, or the composer himself—they’ve made of the work a force of nature in which they raise actual goosebumps. Yet Rowland never produces a quirkily unpleasant sound from the 1776 Lorenzo Storioni violin he plays—every timbral effect, no matter how lurid, seems to flow naturally from the expressive demands of the music itself.
The duo also finds the generative center of the Second Sonata’s first movement, which, though French in sensibility, contains haunting and daunting moments of overwhelming emotional power. Their reading of the slow movement disappears into a magical wisp of sound; the finale compounds stentorian statement with whimsy.
Impressions d’enfance, from 1940, makes very realistic references at times to the world of sound Enescu experienced as a young boy, weaving into its variegated sonic quilt a gypsy fiddler, an old beggar (whom Rowland presents in a surprisingly suave tonal garb), various bird calls, both free and caged (once again, Rowland never goes so far in realistic portrayal that he draws unpleasant sounds from his instrument—his means remain always musical ones), wind in the chimney, and, at the end, sunrise. Though these impressions may be surrealistically vivid, neither Enescu nor the duo ever make them sound maudlinly nostalgic.
With a blockbuster performance of the Third Sonata, a strong-minded one of the Second, and an almost Expresssionistic one of the Impressions, all in recorded sound that is sensitive to both tonal and dynamic nuance, these wide-ranging performances could leave listeners stunned by their power and insight. It’s risky to peer into the future, but this seems like a perfect item for the Want List. Urgently recommended.
George Enescu Works for Violin and Piano – Rowland Kudritskaya Duo
“George Enescu (1881-1955) was Romania’s greatest musician. He was introduced to the violin by a folk fiddler, possible a Gypsy, when he was 4. When he was 7 he was admitted to the Vienna Conservatory, only the second student (after Fritz Kreisler) allowed to study at the school at that tender age.” …..
“Violin Sonata 2 was Enescu’s first mature work. Written in 1898 when he was 17, it sounds thoroughly Western in form and harmony. It is still the work of a commanding personality. He would not write for the violin again until 1926, when he produced Violin Sonata 3, subtitled In the Popular Romanian Character. With the work’s opening notes, the listener is immediately aware that it inhabits a different world.” …..
“14 years later he composed his Impressions of Childhood. This makes an advance over the sonata in folk style. It is a suite of 10 continuous impressions, apparently occurring in the course of a day of a young child..” …..
“[Daniel Rowland] is a very stylish and charismatic player, and he understands this music perfectly. His partner, Russian-born pianist Natacha Kudritskaya, is just as well attuned to Enescu’s idiom and draws bewitching sounds from her instrument.”
“These are among the very finest performances of all three works that I have heard, and they are good enough to be the only ones in your record library.”