An artist's impression
Flamboyant, arresting, lucid. The young cellist Richard Jenkinson gave a theatrical performance at his Wigmore Hall debut. By Robert Cowan
Friday 03 May 1996
The Latvian-born American pianist Robert Kulek offered Jenkinson a discreet accompaniment, but made a far stronger impression in Martinu's Third Sonata (1952), a glorious piece, out-going, sun-drenched (the opening movement especially) and with an upbeat, bluesy finale that would make fine "encore" material in its own right. Here both Jenkinson and Kulek captured the spirit of the piece to a tee - more so, perhaps, than in Debussy's late Cello Sonata, where, although fairly responsive to play and caprice (Jenkinson is a dab hand at characterful pizzicatos), they didn't quite connect with the first movement's interior musings.
After the interval, Jenkinson scaled down his handsome (though occasionally discoloured) tone to admirable effect for Martin Ellerby's Epitaph IV: Lux Aeterna (Lidice), a touching meditation that recalled the wartime Czechs' brave attempt to assassinate "Reichsprotektor" Reinhard Heydrich and the Nazis' revenge killing of a whole village. Ellerby had visited a church where, as he himself explained (in his own programme note), "Heydrich's assailants were finally tracked and killed"; he imagined the last two survivors trapped in a room and looking towards a narrow shaft of light - so it may be that recollections of Debussy's "Cathedrale engloutie" (most apparent in the opening measures) weren't entirely accidental. The closing moments were especially poignant in their veiled acknowledgement of light within a context of terrible darkness.
Brahms came next, his E minor Sonata, a fairly robust reading that was somewhat short on inflectional variety from the cellist and tonal weight from the pianist.
The recital's official last item, however, found Jenkinson and Kulek enjoying themselves with Buxton Orr's ingenious A Carmen Fantasy, a dazzling array of themes from Bizet's opera (just about every one you could think of) slipped into a variety of roles, from main melody to accompaniment and passage-work (Escamillo made an especially sly entrance). It was all Robert Cohen's idea, prompted by the violin Carmen Fantasy that Franz Waxman wrote for Heifetz.
Jenkinson relished every bar and so did the audience - which made an encore inevitable. But rather than string together two or three brief pot-boilers, Jenkinson returned us to Martinu with a substantial - though still light-hearted - set of Variations on a theme of Rossini. It was a brilliant, bizarre affair that responded well to Jenkinson's flamboyant stage personality.
His manner is arresting, his technique potentially accommodating: give him time to mellow, and he'll surely become a significant presence in our musical life.
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