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.”
George Enescu Works for Violin and Piano – Rowland Kudritskaya Duo
Violinist Daniel Rowland and pianist Natacha Kudritskaya, natives of London and Kiev, respectively, have a great time with three major works for violin and piano by George Enescu (1881–1955).
In doing research for the present review, I was shocked to find how little of the Roumanian composer’s music I had in my own listening library—basically only the two Roumanian Rhapsodies for orchestra and his Suite No. 2 for piano. Enescu is, in fact, probably the most under-represented of all the world’s great composers in concert programs and recordings.
There are several reasons for this scarcity. One obvious explanation is that Enescu was much in demand as a performing artist. He was world-class as both a violinist and a pianist, something I cannot recall to be the case of any composer since Mozart. His pupils and protegés included the likes of Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Grumiaux, and Ivry Gitlis. He was also a conductor of some note. But perhaps the most important reason we don’t hear more of Enescu is that he was so very meticulous in the care with which he approached any new work of music.
Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, heard on the present program, will give even the most casual listener an impression of how carefully Enescu approached his art. It is extremely densely annotated in terms of the small details one is expected to negotiate in order to achieve the improvisatory sound of folk fiddling and the essentially Roumanian character of the music—indications as to which part of the bow to use on which strings, the precise degree of vibrato, and how to execute the many ornaments the composer calls for. As Rowland has expressed it, “One needs an accountant’s attention to detail coupled with the fiery, limitless abandon of a gypsy!”
Other qualities which make this sonata distinctive, and which it also shares to some degree with Violin Sonata No. 2 in F minor, include its dreamlike quality and the tendency toward melancholy and minor keys, even in fast sections where you least expect it. Unless my ears are playing tricks on me, Enescu even explores semitones, at a time when few other composers concerned themselves with them.
Consider also Enescu’s fascination for the sounds of nature. Like Bartok in Hungary, he seemed to have had a preternatural sensitivity for nocturnal sounds—the chirrping of birds, the sussurient sounds of crickets. These traits reach an apex in Impressions d’enfance (Impressions of Childhood, Op. 28), in which Rowland claims to detect evocations of a street fiddler, a pitiful beggar, birdsong, a cuckoo clock, and moonlight streaming through the curtains of the child’s bedroom at night.
All of which calls for the remarkably close partnership between violin and piano that Rowland and Kudritskaya show in these recordings. Close miking, in which we can even hear the violinist’s sympathetic breathing, allows us to hear a wealth of vital details.