Maxim Vengerov, Itamar Golan - classical review: 'The encores to the encores could have gone on all night'
Monday 13 January 2014
The progress of Maxim Vengerov speaks volumes about the splendours and miseries of a virtuoso career.
Born and raised in Novosibirsk, he was destined by his musical parents for a life in music, and initially chose the violin simply because he fancied himself in a prominent position in the orchestra.
At seven, practising seven hours a day, he entered the tutelage of the hard-driving teacher with whom he would stay until he was in his twenties; his rise to fame as a teenage virtuoso was meteoric.
His combination of charisma, authority, and the most perfect tone allowed him to charge higher fees than any other player in the game, and he expanded his activities in many directions, into jazz, and as a conductor, professor at the Royal Academy, and globe-trotting Unicef envoy for music.
It all seemed too good to be true - and it was. At a recital in Lisbon on 2002 I watched him play a brilliant first half and then announce, disconsolately, that he had had an accident to his shoulder that day, and could no longer play.
News filtered out that weight-training was the cause, followed by the information, which he later confirmed, that psychological burn-out was the real problem. He stopped playing completely, and it looked doubtful if he would ever make a come-back.
Two years ago, very gingerly, he did, with a Wigmore recital which showed that his Bach was both intact and in more forceful shape than ever. But he wasn’t out of the wood: in a Barbican performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto there were three ghastly moments when he completely lost his intonation, and clearly through stress.
A year later he was back with his accompanist Itamar Golan for a recital where he displayed all his old elegance of line and purity of tone.
Last weekend’s recital set the seal on his recovery. He began in sober seriousness with Elgar’s rarely-performed Violin Sonata in E minor, described by the composer as ‘full of golden sounds’, and that was very much how Vengerov presented it.
The virtuosity of the first movement was refined, and its impassioned lyricism restrained, while its tentative and labyrinthine Romance had a lovely suggestiveness.
Following this work with Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata in F minor, which was written for David Oistrakh, Vengerov proved himself a worthy successor to that great artist. He delivered its ghostly pianissimo scales with relaxed ease and astonishing rapidity, and in the Andante let the most beguiling of melodies unfurl over the piano’s rippling figurations.
Then it was wall-to-wall encores, interlarded with the commentary of a born showman. A Brahms Scherzo, all fire and fury, was followed by the swoops and slides of a Hungarian Dance, then Vengerov treated us to a dazzling medley of party-pieces, playing unashamedly to the gallery but without sacrificing an iota of his control and beauty of sound.
The encores to the encores could have gone on all night. How nice to report that among fiddlers Maxim Vengerov, now 39, once again reigns supreme.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Andreas Lubitz: Who is Germanwings co-pilot who 'locked out captain and crashed flight 9525'?
- 2 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 3 Germanwings crash: Descent may have been 'deliberate, suicidal choice' by pilot, claims experts
- 4 Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
- 5 Video shows what happens when lava is poured onto ice
Jeremy Clarkson to host BBC's Have I Got News For You despite Top Gear exit
Jeremy Clarkson says it 'isn't hard' to create another Top Gear
James May hints Top Gear days are over following Jeremy Clarkson's BBC suspension
The Face of an Angel actress: I feel great empathy for Meredith Kercher’s family
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Vote Ukip, says far-right group Britain First