When a work is described as “uncommonly difficult for all concerned’, as Gerald Larner puts it in his felicitous programme-note to Bartok’s Violin Sonata No 1, warning bells inevitably ring. And indeed, in the first movement the musicians proceed on such seemingly incompatible paths that they might be playing different works. But the achievement of violinist Liza Ferschtman and pianist Roman Rabinovich was to transcend the superficially rebarbative nature of this piece, and to display its underlying unity. They triumphantly brought out the poised beauty of the Adagio and the wild fiddle-dance of the finale.
This couple make a brilliant pairing – Ferschtman’s command of texture and colour is remarkable, while Rabinovich’s refined touch allows him to evoke the most fleeting and quicksilver shifts in mood. They began with Brahms’s Violin Sonata No 1 in G, revelling in its warm lyricism, and continued with “Subito”, a coruscating little work which Witold Lutoslawski had composed as a test piece for a competition, before winding up with a magisterial account of Beethoven’s final violin sonata. There Rabinovich’s hands fairly flew: Beethoven had to give all the virtuosity to the pianist, because the violinist for the premiere was technically insecure. But in the encore – Bartok’s Romanian Dances – Ferschtman ran the gamut of styles with blithe assurance.
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