Pinchas Zukerman / Marc Neikrug, Barbican, London

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The Independent Culture

It might have been better if he'd said he was at least unwell, so inadequate had his recital been up to this point. And this was in the second half, when insult had been added to injury with the "cancellation at the artist's request" of Takemitsu's announced work.

Dividing his recital into works for viola in part one and works for violin in part two, the evening in fact began with Bach's great G minor sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord. So Zukerman was playing the wrong string instrument, and Marc Neikrug, on a concert Steinway, the wrong keyboard instrument. All might have been forgiven - even in these "authentic" times, Baroque works are played on modern instruments - had the performance risen above apparent sight-reading.

Zukerman, glued to his music, appeared disengaged - he might, in the first movement, have been playing a practice study, dynamics flat except for the obvious, phrasing or pointing of Bach's subtle harmonic inflections non-existent, and not a hint of projection to the audience. Were the many empty seats to blame?

Things got no better in Shostakovich's searing Sonata for Viola and Piano. It's one of the blackest works ever written, yet Zukerman walked on and began playing with not a second's pause for reflection, or hint to the audience that maximum concentration and intensity might be required from both player and listener. This, too, felt like sight-reading, Zukerman not the least bit interested in Neikrug's (admittedly feeble) contribution. Only in the Adagio, with its haunting allusions to Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata, could one discern glimpses of the great Zukerman.

Then came the unfortunate Mozart sonata, played no better than by a very average student, Zukerman's head buried in his music. To end, Brahms's D minor sonata Op 108 - and finally, more than a hint of greatness in the playing. But much more was expected.