Tuesday 24 September 2019

Review: Rumbustious duo’s delicious Dublin debut

Classical: Nikolaj Znaider, National Concert Hall

The National Concert Hall in Dublin.
The National Concert Hall in Dublin.

Pat O'Kelly

This autumn the NCH's International Series has a Nordic focus and, through his Embassy, brings Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider to Dublin for the first time.

Superbly accompanied by US pianist Robert Kulek, this collaboration of musical minds presents their chosen composers in the best possible light.

Although relying heavily on Brahms, they open with Beethoven's Second Sonata. The music shows the composer in humorous form and the visiting artists enter blissfully into the piece's impish joie de vivre.

Overall the sonata has conversational rapport between the violin and piano, but its central andante turns the instrumentalists' sharing of interests into a vital structural component.

The finale returns to the amusing jousts of the opening but Znaider and Kulek have the good sense to avoid exaggeration. Their playing may be rumbustious but it is neatly controlled.

Brahms' Second Sonata is more serious and more extended in romantic expression. Wonderfully supported by Kulek, Znaider moulds the melodic phrases beautifully. His faultless intonation and marvellously assured technique mean the delicacy of the writing has crystalline purity.

There is compelling power and strength in Brahms' Third Sonata and once again the ideally matching duo serves the composer with unfailing commitment. They never get in the way of the music's expressiveness.

With gentle restraint, the adagio's cantilena lines are exquisitely played while the ensuing intermezzo has feathery lightness in the violin and dramatic cascades in the piano.

Bold and assertive, Nikolaj Znaider and Robert Kulek offer irresistible sweep in propelling the finale forward.

In between Brahms come Shostakovich bon bons - four of his Op 34 piano preludes arranged by his violinist friend Dmitri Tsyganov. Deliciously done, the zany elements of the short pieces perfectly compliment the wit of the opening Beethoven.

Irish Independent

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