Weill Recital Hall
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata # 7
Alfred Schnittke: Sonata # 1
Claude Debussy: Sonata (1917)
Maurice Ravel: Sonata (1897)
Camille Saint-Saens: Introduction and Rondo capriccioso
Janine Jansen (violin)
Folke Nauta (piano)
Carnegie Hall is of course the ultimate goal of all solo musicians and the world is full of hopefuls who are practicing, practicing, practicing for their one chance at a crack at its discriminating audience and paramount ambience. One entre for a young performer is the Distinctive Debuts series at the smaller venue on 57th Street, the gorgeously appointed Weill Recital Hall, the best acoustical room in the entire city. The series is always sold out (although last night's Arctic temperatures kept some away) and there is no better way to attain high visibility in only one recital. Two young Hollanders took the plunge last evening and provided us all with a fine program properly balanced between the traditional and the adventurous.
Janine Jansen is 21 years old and looks 15. She is about to launch her concert career in a big way by touring with Valery Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Folke Nauta is already 26 but does have a CD of Chopin to his credit and the distinction of having a new concerto written expressly for him. Together they form two thirds of the Rembrandt Trio. Right from the first this was decidedly an equal venture, not a showcase merely for a flashy violinist, but rather a well thought through program of both pianistic and violinistic prowess. We now know how deeply Beethoven suffered during the years surrounding this violin sonata, even contemplating thoughts of suicide, and yet this duo, in their youthful outlook, emphasized the inherent optimism that is hidden even in the most severe of all the master's music. Ms. Jansen, from the first notes, established her tone as warm and vibrant and Mr. Nauta clearly impressed with his light and expressive touch.
Any attention deficit disorder sufferers in the audience must have been pleased with the Schnittke work. Using his own technique christened "polystylistic" by the composer himself, the tortured Russian ostensibly presents a work in four movements but actually sings in so many voices as to display a cross-cutting cross-section of Western musical history that would make an MTV video editor proud. The root material of this sonata is the beautiful Berg Violin Concerto cubistically exposed complete with D major open string motif and B-A-C-H (B flat, A, C, B) chorale. Not satisfied with a hundred different styles, Schnittke also creates a part for the page-turner, who periodically would go into the piano and hold down strings for a pianola effect. I was actually rather taken with this work and this was undoubtedly because of the sincere efforts of these mature concert artists. Ms. Jansen, for example, followed her partner's (clearly not her accompanist's) long solo parts with great attention, displaying, as Nietzsche used to say, a nodding acquaintance with the music. This is a duo worthy of significant praise and still young enough to enjoy the music itself.
After intermission the two presented an interesting pairing consisting of the last piece that Debussy ever wrote and the first work of chamber music from the pen of Ravel. Ms. Jansen was very poetic in the Fantasque et leger section, creating the sensation that this unabashed fan of Poe was looking to convey. The Ravel is a very beautiful if forgotten work, with echoes of the great A minor trio to come, and she played it angelically with a wonderful sense of necessary vibrato.
In a nod to the traditional violin and piano recital, the pair ended with French pastries. The Saint-Saens was followed by the Ravel Habanera and then "It ain't necessarily so" from Porgy and Bess emphasized their European orientation since so many Continental performers feel the need to throw the American audience a familiar bone as an encore (earlier this week Anne-Sophie Mutter ended with Copland's Hoedown). All in good fun and served to show off Ms. Jansen's dexterity. Remember these names; youth will be served.
Frederick L. Kirshnit