Major sonatas by Mozart and Schumann were the core of Wednesday night's UB Visiting Artist recital, but its prime pleasures lay elsewhere.
Violinist Viviane Hagner's clever programming unified the first half of the recital and at the same time paid tribute to one of her idols, the great violinist Fritz Kreisler. The recital opened with Kreisler's own "Variations on a Theme by Corelli," played with a fine sense of lightness, spring and bubbling optimism. There was fluency and ease in carving Kreisler's lyric lines, and the performance assumed a posture which suggested a light-hearted grandiosity which never became pompous.
The other Kreisler tribute was the rarely heard Sonata No. 4 for unaccompanied violin by the Belgian violinist-composer Eugene Ysaye. The sonata was dedicated to Kreisler because of Ysaye's memory of his "robust playing and full sonority."
Hagner's Stradivarius poured out sounds of a breadth and richness matching Ysaye's memory. The first movement was intense yet bright-toned, and conveyed both lyricism and drama, heightened by warm double stops. Hagner had a wonderfully secure control of changing dynamics. The second movement's opening pizzicato was a little stiff, but the subsequent bowed sections almost visually laid out Ysaye's musical thought process, garnished with airy harmonics and more pizzicato as punctuation. The Finale was almost perpetual motion, technically difficult but very deftly spun out, with a fine closing flair prompting several curtain calls.
A group of nine uncredited transcriptions for violin and piano from Shostakovich's 1933 "24 Preludes," Op. 34 for piano were miniatures shot through with the wry whimsy and quirky originality of his early years. There were whirling, swirling sounds, gossamer upper-register interludes, clumsy folk dances and awkward waltz rhythms, all interspersed with occasional tender bits of wistful lyricism and pensive, veiled mystery which still managed to put a few experimental spikes out in other directions. The artists had the Shostakovich style very much in hand.
Pianist Tatiana Goncharova, who was a superb partner all evening, got her chance to take the upper billing in Mozart's specifically titled Sonata for Piano with Violin in B-Flat, K454. She displayed a clean, detailed and quite bravura technique which at times may have gone beyond Mozart's mature notion of piano-violin balance. The performance exuded excitement and in the Rondo finale retreated to almost equal partnership while still maintaining a very compelling energy.
The recital concluded with the seldom heard Sonata No. 1 by Schumann, a work of uncharacteristic brevity which barely escaped the "sonatina" designation. The broadly lyrical first movement was delightfully unhurried, the lighter miniature slow movement had a graceful touch which left a memorable profile in mind, and in the capricious finale both artists projected its scampering quality very excitingly.
Audience enthusiasm prompted two contrasting encores, Sarasate's "Zapateado," full of tough technical stunts, and Saint-Saens' exquisitely lyrical "The Swan."
Violinist Viviane Hagner with pianist Tatiana Goncharova
Wednesday evening in Slee Hall, UB North Campus