Last Saturday 17 November I attended a wonderful violin and piano recital at the Melbourne Recital Centre: the British violinist Anthony Marwood and the Belgrade-born pianist Aleksandar Madžar playing a program that included two old favourites: Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata and Debussy’s wonderful Violin Sonata, both of which I had in multiple versions by the time I left university.
I first became familiar with the Kreutzer Sonata in my first year at university, when my mother’s friend May Richardson (neé Drabsch) offered to lend me her ten-inch vinyl record of David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin playing it, saying she thought I would enjoy it, which of course I did.
By the time I left the University of New England I had also acquired on vinyl:
- My own copy of Oistrakh and Oborin
- Jascha Heifetz and Brooks Smith
- Yehudi and Hephzibah Menuhin
- Josef Szigeti and Béla Bartók (famous recording of a 1940 concert in the Library of Congress)
- The wonderful recording by Zino Francescatti and Robert Casadesus
Over the years I have also acquired on CD, in no particular order:
- Yehudi Mehuhin and Louis Kentner
- David Oistrakh and Frida Bauer
- Fritz Kreisler and Franz Rupp
- Georg Kulenkampff and Wilhelm Kempff
- Josef Szigeti and Claudio Arrau
- Adolf Busch and Rudolf Serkin
- Isaac Stern and Eugene Istomin
- The abovementioned recording of Josef Szigeti and Béla Bartók
With the Debussy the story is pretty much the same. I first acquired a ten-inch vinyl of Josef Suk and Jan Panenka, and by the time I left university I had also acquired
- Isaac Stern and Alexander Zakin
- Josef Szigeti and Béla Bartók (another item on the 1940 Library of Congress program)
Subsequent acquisitions on CD are:
- Ginette Neveu and Jean Neveu
- Kyung Wha Chung and Radu Lupu
- Arthur Grumiaux and István Hajdu
- Yehudi Menuhin and Jacques Février
- Christian Ferras and Pierre Barbizet
- and of course Josef Szigeti and Béla Bartók on the Library of Congress recording
I digress, but all of this is by way of saying that I am not altogether unfamiliar with these works: I have listened to them up hill and down dale over many years, by a variety of great interpreters. It is therefore a great pleasure to be able to say that Marwood and Madžar played them extraordinarily well. I went to the concert with high expectations and was not disappointed. These men have been playing together for years, and it shows – they come across as two people playing together, almost a single instrument, rather than one person accompanied by another. They played with great confidence (if you’ve practiced enough you can take risks with crescendi etc), and Marwood’s phrasing and intonation were superb.
I might add that it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to go to a recital at which some of the greatest pieces in the repertoire are performed really well. Not every concert needs to be “challenging” or “confronting” or to “take us out of our comfort zone”. There is a reason why the great works have staying power, and for my money I would like to hear more of them in live performance.