Festival Music

Maxim Vengerov

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Miranda Heggie

four stars

FOR A solo violin and piano recital, the Usher Hall may seem like a very large venue, and although perhaps to begin with Maxim Vengerov and Roustem Saitkoulov’s performance felt a touch remote, their virtuosity and magnetic stage presence coupled with their rich, lustrous sound swiftly captivated the audience.

Opening with Schubert’s Violin Sonata in A major D574, Vengerov’s sleek, supple sound filled the hall, and the "Duo" aspect of the sonata was very much evident, with Saitkoulov’s rippling piano playing driving the testing urgency of the scherzo movement. Vengerov’s expert artistry was further displayed with lush double stopping and almost microscopic ornamentation in Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor Op 30 No 2, with moments of dark foreboding being followed by a jubilant, almost ostentatious finale.

Maurice Ravel’s Violin Sonata in G Major saw the second half open with a wholly different mood, with Saitkoulov beautifully expressing Ravel’s deliciously blurry piano writing, giving a unique colour to Vengerov’s smooth, singing violin lines. The middle "blue" section of the sonata had a cheeky, yet persistent drive, ending on a slightly suggestive note, before the dogged precision of the final movement.

A stunning performer, Vengerov displayed the full extent of his technical ability with Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst’s Polyphonic Etude No 6, The Last Rose of Summer, a set of variations on a traditional Irish melody. Despite being written for unaccompanied violin, the polyphony is very much present, and Vengerov brought out each voice simultaneously with pizzicatos paired against soaring solo melodies, and multiple stopping. Ending with Fritz Kreisler’s arrangement of Paganini’s I palpiti, based on an aria from Rossini’s Tancredi, Vengerov evoked the emotions of the aria with sublime tenderness and passion.