Wigmore Hall, London
Maxim Vengerov's recital was originally planned to mark his return to the UK as a violinist after taking time out to train as a conductor. Things didn't quite work out as intended, however, thanks to his decision to take over the concerto space from the indisposed Martha Argerich in the St. Petersburg Philharmonic's Barbican concert a few weeks ago –, but even so, his Wigmore concert was an occasion of considerable importance.
It was, above all, an evening of grand gestures. A change to the programme's running order allowed Vengerov to open with Bach's D Minor Partita for solo violin, originally scheduled to be heard second. Technically and interpretatively, this is one of the greatest challenges any violinist can face, and he played it with tremendous attack and fullness of tone, and with an aggressive nobility that proved particularly telling in the relentless final chaconne.
The epic scale of the performance set the tone. What works for Bach, however, doesn't always ideally suit Handel, whose Violin Sonata in D sounded sumptuous, but could have done with a bit less loftiness, and a bit more light and shade. The rhetorical flourishes that support the solo line were majestically played by pianist Itamar Golan, making his first appearance of the evening.
Golan didn't come into his own, however, until the performance of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata that followed the interval. His fire and grandeur match Vengerov's own, and this was formidable music-making in which scale and prowess blended to produce edge-of-your-seat excitement. There were two encores – Brahms's Hungarian Dance No 1, and Wieniawski's Scherzo-Tarantella – both exhilaratingly done.
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