Thomas Zehetmair/Ruth Kilius, Wigmore Hall
Thursday 07 April 2011
Bigger than the violin, the viola is tuned a fifth lower, with a darker, warmer sound, and with richer harmonics: while the violin flies high, the viola can connect us to the earth.
And when these two instruments are teamed together, the resulting sound-world has interesting possibilities. But they seldom are teamed: hence the interest of this concert by violinist Thomas Zehetmair and his long-time violist partner Ruth Kilius, who presented us with some remarkable fruits of this combination.
Since these were the two string instruments Mozart played, it was no surprise to find him figuring prominently, though the story of how he came to write his violin-viola duos is strange. Joseph Haydn’s brother Michael had been commissioned to write six such duos, but fell sick (he was a famous alcoholic) after writing four: when he was threatened with the sack, Mozart nobly filled the gap with the final two, which he allowed Haydn to present under his own name. Yet they are so typically Mozartian that nobody now could think they were by anyone else; Zehetmair and Kilius played them with lovely panache.
The other three works in this programme were rarities. Nikos Skalkottas (1904-1949) studied under Schoenberg and became the leading modernist composer of his native Greece. But his ‘Duo’ has a lyrical freshness and opens with some mellifluous dissonances which put one more in mind of Bartok; the way this pair delivered it made it feel like a very large work condensed into a very small space.
Bohuslav Martinu’s ‘Three Madrigals’ were composed as a gesture of defiance against the Romantic tradition, and to me at least were a revelation. The first was a dizzy two-part invention, the second came bathed in a suggestive haze of trills and tremolos. The third had the crazily impulsive momentum of a fantasia, with its moods changing like clouds scudding across the sky, until it achieved a luminous splendour. No other composer ever wrote like this: if it had echoes of Bach’s string partitas, these qualities were transmuted with a quintessentially Czech fancy.
Only in Heinz Holliger’s perverse and unfathomable ‘Drei Skizzen’ did this brilliant duo slightly overreach themselves: called upon to sing along with their instruments, they couldn’t quite hack it.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Stuart Baggs dies: Apprentice star 'The Brand' found dead aged 27
- 2 Whoopi Goldberg tells Cara Delevingne to suck it up: 'She's not famous. I'M famous'
- 3 1000 people played Foo Fighters simultaneously to try and get them to play their city
- 4 Every club should be like Labour – you can’t join as a new member unless you’re already a member
- 5 Doctor Who: Christopher Eccleston says why he left the BBC series after just one series
Why Harry Potter's aged 35, not 26
Frank Ocean, where's that new album at?
Top Gear trio Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May heading to Amazon Prime for new car show
Benedict Cumberbatch has 1,480 lines in Hamlet - so what's the secret to actors' memory skills?
Drake responds to Meek Mill's 'diss' track 'Wanna Know' by laughing at the rapper on Instagram
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'