St Peter's Church recitals: fifth series welcomes a truly brilliant young duo
Yume Fujise is a Japanese violinist who began to play the violin at the age of three. Aged 10 she was invited to study at the Juilliard School of Music in New York before coming to Britain as a pupil at the Yehudi Menuhin School. She is currently studying at the Royal College of Music, has made her debut at the Wigmore Hall and is currently living in London.
Maria began her studies in the Ukraine and Poland and continued studying in Brussels at the Royal Conservatory. She is now in great demand as a chamber musician.
The concert opened with Elgar’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in C Major. The work was written in 1918, the year that World War 1 finished - a war that saw the death of many friends and the way of life of Edwardian England in which Elgar had grown up.
Perhaps it is the sense of loss that colours this gentle and unassuming work. It opens boldly enough with an expansive melody one which recurs throughout the movement, interspersed with themes that are, by contrast, very agitated. The violin was perhaps a little strident and harsh, although the acoustic in Saint Peter’s is not entirely sympathetic to string instruments.
However there was a wonderful empathy between the two soloists as the melody is passed from one to the other. This was very evident in the second movement, a Romance, and the real joy of this piece. Its wistfulness and gentle yearning were deeply expressed and much was made of a recurring two bar motif, which feels like a deep sigh.
The piece is underlain with an understandable nostalgia. It was beautifully played - demonstrating a very secure partnership between the two soloists, a feature which, indeed characterised the whole evening’s concert.
The second piece, Kreisler’s Syncopation, was a total contrast. Fritz Kreisler was a legendary Austrian violinist who dominated music in the early twentieth century. Edward Elgar dedicated his B Minor Violin Concerto to him, one of many commissions that Kreisler received. Still remembered as one the greatest of all violinists, little attention is paid to his own compositions.
His Syncopation is light and frothy, and is based on a jaunty little tune which might just as readily have come from a Vienna ‘Bier Keller’. Not surprisingly it is written with plenty of syncopations and glissandi, and a clear favourite of Yume’s.
The second half began with Schubert’s Fantasy in C major. The work opens with a wonderful soaring Schubertian melody on the violin rising above rippling tremolos on the piano. The mood then changes abruptly as the violin launches into a jaunty Hungarian dance, the contrast being admirably made.
Then comes a theme with a series of four variations - the theme being a well-loved song ‘Sei mir Gegrust’; surely one of the most tender of all Schubert’s songs. Both musicians made the most of the diversity of mood and technique, the staccato second variation being especially successful.
The last movement begins with a powerful statement bounced around between the two instruments, (the majestic tune sounding surprisingly like Beethoven), before unexpectedly, with a sudden shift of key and mood we return to the tender song for one last variation before the movement ends in a glorious blaze of sound.
Here was a deep understanding of Schubert’s music. It was lovingly played, the tenderness and intimacy of the work being beautifully expressed.
What a contrast this was to the final work, Ravel’s Tsigane. Born out of a friendship between the composer and the Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi, Ravel imbued the colourful music of central European gypsy traditions.
Ravel wrote of the Tsigane: "Certain passages can produce brilliant effects, provided that it is possible to perform them - which I’m not sure of". Yume and Maria left us in no doubt that it is possible to perform the work - to the great acclaim of the Saint Peter’s audience too.
It is musical fireworks throughout. It begins unusually with an extended cadenza into which every technical trick seems incorporated before the piano joins in and the pair explore a captivating gypsy-type melody, plangent and modal. The series of improvisations, which may have originated with Jelly d’Aranyi, become steadily more virtuosic, culminating in a dazzling and whirling finale.
This really was pyrotechnics in Saint Peter’s. Both performers played with technical skill and a thorough understanding of Ravel’s image of gypsy music, but it was the mutual understanding of the two performers that was most striking.
It was a wonderful and varied programme, brilliantly played and enthusiastically appreciated by the Saint Peter’s audience. Please come back!