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Overnight Sensation

New York
Weill Recital Hall
04/06/2001 -  
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonatas # 1 & 9
Leos Janacek: Sonata
Claude Debussy: Sonata

Reka Szilvay (violin)
Christoph Berner (piano)

Reka Szilvay is something of a phenomenon in Finland. According to her prepared biography, she is the daughter of a Hungarian gentleman who specializes in a particular method of violin instruction and with whom she began studies at the age of four. After more than fifty appearances as a child on television, she is now as a young adult beginning to expand her horizons and go after an international recital career. Her nomination by the Musikverein of Vienna to the “Rising Stars” tour is certainly a respectable stepping-stone and earned her a ticket to the Weill Recital Hall stage last evening as a member of the “Distinctive Debut” class of 2001. There is no doubt that her technical competency is prodigious; she navigated this difficult program with virtually no mistakes. She is now ready to begin studies of another sort and to take her well-earned skill set to the next level of musicianship. What was lacking this night was a sense of musical style, a distinction between the strict Classicism of the Beethoven 1 and the drama of the ”Kreutzer”, a deep dive into the passion of Janacek, a shimmering survey of the out of focus world of Debussy. Ms. Szilvay seemed so intent on getting everything right that she really never approached these pieces as music, they became in her hands instead impressive but hollow feats of dexterity and nimbleness. More than once I noticed patrons looking at their watches and the general applause between numbers was polite but uninspired, the performers not called back for second bows as would normally be the routine here. Mr. Berner was perhaps a bit too noble in his understatement, letting the violinist bask in the spotlight while providing a secure but ultimately pedestrian background. The music was sometimes used as a device to showcase Ms. Szilvay’s high degree of technical wizardry, as, for example, the finale of the Debussy, which was rushed and driven beyond any sense of musical delicacy; to be sure, the soloist made her point that she could play extremely accurately at this level of alacrity, but, to what end? If Reka Szilvay is to truly become a fine musician, she must begin to think of her material less as a tool for self-aggrandizement and more as her raison d’etre. As Rudolf Serkin used to say, “the difficult part is learning to become a servant of the music”.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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