Noriko Ogawa / Matthew Trusler, Wigmore Hall, London

By Cara Chanteau
Tuesday 18 February 2003 01:00
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The Wigmore Hall played host last week to two young musicians of increasing renown: the already fairly well-established Japanese pianist Noriko Ogawa and the English violinist Matthew Trusler who, though still in his mid-twenties, has been attracting the kind of praise normally reserved for a young Oistrakh.

Their programme stretched all the way from Mozart to Takemitsu by way of Prokoviev, Messiaen and Ravel, a scenic route guaranteed to display both technical mastery and emotional depth. The Mozart Violin Sonata in E minor K 304, one of six written when Mozart was only 22, was described by Einstein as "one of the miracles among Mozart's works". From the opening bars, it immediately announced Trusler's sureness of touch, an utter facility with his instrument and Mozart's delicate lines that allowed the audience to bask in the beauty and poignancy of the work. This was reaffirmed in Takemitsu's From Far Beyond Chrysanthemums and November Fog, where the composer's belief in the value of silence was given full honour in Trusler's ability to take a note into nothingness.

On the piano, Ogawa's surprisingly strong approach had nothing of the lightness of her compatriot Mitsuko Uchida, but it came into its own with the centrepiece of the concert, Prokoviev's Violin Sonata No 1 in F Minor, written when Russia was suffering the double horrors of Stalin and the Second World War. It is a deeply emotional work, here given a superb performance; the piano and violin occasionally melding so well that by a strange alchemy the sound becomes something different, a sound world Arvo Pärt would recognise, although for the most part it is Shostakovich who stands shoulder to shoulder with Prokoviev.

In the first movement slithery, feathery violin figures evoke "the wind in a graveyard"; by the Andante, the violin is singing a wistful tune of normality undercut by the piano's intimations of fear and darkness. The violin becomes strained to the point of hysteria, the final bars only confirming that the nightmare is real.

If one were to carp, it would be in the choice of Ravel's Violin Sonata in G major, where the middle jazz movement was the queasy Ravel of La Valse rather than full-blooded New Orleans swing, and the encore of one of Brahms's Hungarian Dances, whose minimal swagger and slyness suggested that neither of them had been stolen away by gypsies as a child.

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