Brighton Fringe 2018
Lana Trotovsek and Yoko Misumi perform relatively little-heard Mozart Violin Sonatas: in F K547, and E minor, K304. And a surprise: Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata.
Lana Trotovsek and Yoko Misumi tackle something we don’t hear often, despite the provenance. Mozart’s Violin Sonatas. Or is that Sonatas for Piano with Violin Obbligato? Or even opt-in?
The two played in reverse chronological order certainly suggest it, particularly the last Mozart wrote in F, K547. It’s a kind of throwback. The dominant piano played by Misumi with a forthright lightness – not an easy balance – might have been designed for Mozart on that instrument and his violin pupil. It’s an almost featherlight affair, an Andante cantabile which as this suggests sings unhurriedly with quite a few events. It’s no simple ABA form. There’s some complexity under the urbanity.
That’s true of the livelier Allegro where the violin of Trotovsek really comes into its own. Her violin-playing even here has a penetrating tone despite its lightness of touch. Trotovsek’s 1750 Italian violin’s one of the reasons but as we found out at the end of the recital, it’s eminently Trotovsek too.
The Andante con variazioni spins out seamlessly with a set of variations; it’s so mellifluous you forget how various and ingenious Mozart’s being and Trotovsek’s superb at bringing out the filigree texture like a bright copper filament, light but glowing.
The Violin Sonata in E minor K304 is a darker affair from a decade earlier where Mozart was mourning his mother’s death in Paris. It’s usually futile to project such incidents but the clutch of works completed there are often bleak and tragic in tone. The E minor’s still piano-dominant, but there’s a dark undertow to the violin part. Both are in E minor: it’s the key of mourning, or of cold fury. The Allegro’s the most memorable single movement for this combination Mozart ever wrote. Urgent, passionate, agitated, dramatic, almost like an operatic scena taking off. Yet this could never be sung: it’s abrupt, knotted and thrilling. Its six-note phrase repeats and concertinas throughout. The succeeding Tempo di Menuetto doesn’t relieve the tensions either, minuet or not. It’s a bit like a tarantella in slow motion: the poison’s bit. The artists manage a superb transition between the two – again not easy since this is emphatic music and easy to unbalance or make heavy throbbing weather of.
Finally an unheralded encore, but then you never expect the devil, least of all in G minor. There’s unease, gnashing of teeth we’re assured in this key too. But its not Mozart but Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770); and G minor was for long a favoured key of composers basing their music around their violin. Tartini dreamt the devil came to him, and he challenged him to play. The devil had so many best tunes Tartini could only remember a shadow of them when he woke and jotted them down. The Devil’s Trill Sonata has become Tartini’s signature work, and it’s his most startling: but he wrote some wonderful concertos and sonatas too. It’s in the baroque violin sonata four-movement slow-fast-slow-fast formula.
Trotovsek’s at home in the declamatory opening and the following second and fourth bravura movements in full-throated Allegro hardy sounded as if from the same person who’d held back in the Mozart, though hints came through in the e minor. Trotovsek simply doesn’t hold back. No politically-correct baroque bowing though respectful of it, more what Kreisler might have done in his fake 18th century pieces. The violin’s piercing sonance cut straight through with almost shocking force. There’s also risk-taking a pressure evincing almost ugly notes, and thrillingly projected.
Trotovsek and Misumi are a compelling duo, and I’ve not heard violin playing of that force and character for a long time. Only the very different Madeleine Mitchell, perhaps. They’ve revived a corner of the repertoire known about but never actually heard. An outstandingly fine recital.