Last night’s recital of Beethoven Violin Sonatas by Leonidas Kavakos and Emanuel Ax was a wonderful combination of venue, repertoire and soloists. The only slightly odd thing about it was that due to being half term the very advanced in age audience was interspersed with school children that mum had taken out for self improvement. Which made for a different atmosphere metaphorically speaking but also literally, the pungent artificial smell of strawberry across the auditorium was difficult to ignore and it was unlike other Wigmore Hall recitals I have been to 😉
Clearly the programme was family friendly but then nothing the Wigmore programmes would rock the boat anyway! Which is part of its charm, it’s a traditional chamber/song venue and does that really well.
The obvious rapport between the two men was a good bond to make those Beethoven pieces come to life. Kavakos’ violin playing is very delicate and mellifluous, appropriate for a soloist playing a 1724 Stradivarius. Always a strange thing to remember with those mythical instruments that they actually pre date Beethoven’s pieces by at least 77 years. An extraordinary link to the past of the art form.
Ax’s at times heavily attacked staccati notes were a great counter balance to bring to the warm comfortable experience a bit of edge. Those violin sonatas, like most chamber pieces seem too cosily proportioned for a ducal salon and can sound as boring and tired as anything if they are not given the right amount of attention. And that very scale of the Sonatas (mind you No10 is in much grander fashion that the first two on the programme) made the Wigmore the ideal venue, the acoustic would have been near to what the composer would have expected such a piece to be played in, intimate but not domestic.
I can only imagine what the impressions of the children around the auditorium must have been like, they surely can’t get near pop stars at such proximity but they can be at arm’s length of such accomplished musicians. Judging from the screams of the two girls behind me, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I have to agree with them. They absolutely deserved the heated applause, which they rewarded with the classic encore caper Sicilienne (composed possibly not by von Paradis, but as Ax himself said it doesn’t matter, it’s beautiful) which had a shimmering brilliance and a bubbling lustfulness as good and as engaging as anything that preceded it.
PS Somehow this feels rather appropriate to follow up with after the violin covers of the last few posts, but can assure you that was not properly planned…just a weird coincidence. As a fun addition here’s a 1955 published account of bad new audience habits 😉