An Intimate Recital by Two Youthful Artists
City Hall Theatre
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata for Violin and Keyboard No. 4 in C minor, BWV 1017
Franz Schubert: Duo Sonata in A major, Op. 162, D. 574
Béla Bartók: Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in C sharp minor, Op. 21
Camille Saint-Saëns: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28
Valeriy Sokolov (Violin), Evgeny Izotov (Piano)
From Bach to Bartók — that was the wide ranged repertoire delivered by the young Ukrainian violinist Valeriy Sokolov on Wednesday evening’s recital. The Hong Kong City Hall Theatre with merely 400 seats is an ideal place for a chamber concert. Throughout the evening, the sonority was exceptionally intimate and cherished, with every detail of the playing recognizable.
It was this chamber-scale sonority that gave these two young artists immense challenges, both musically and technically. Comparing to Mr. Izotov, Mr. Sokolov’s temperament was rather ebullient and extroversive. In the opening Bach’s Sonata, the violin and the piano clearly adopted two different styles. Mr. Sokolov’s approach was more ‘modern’, with frequent vibratos on long notes and expressive long bowings. Whereas, Mr. Izotov’s semi-legato touch, solid intonation, and plain-spoken articulation almost evoked the sound of Glenn Gould. This simplicity of articulation was particularly enchanting in the third Adagio movement, in which all the notes were rendered in a barely detached manner.
Mr. Sokolov’s expressivity and ebullience were more appropriate for the song like Duo Sonata by Schubert. His variegated left-hand vibrato made the phrases sung with colours. The glinting tone also playfully brought out the humour of the Scherzo second movement. Mr. Izotov provided a supportive collaboration throughout the four movements. But in such a small hall with only 400 audiences, I would have preferred a more delicate and exquisite reading.
The two showpieces after the intermission fully displayed Mr. Sokolov’s superb command on his instrument. His ebullient character and dazzling virtuosity were telling exemplified in Bartók’s Violin Sonata. The luminous violin tone in the outer movements sometimes even sounded too overwhelming. Notwithstanding, the music’s rapt expressivity and lilt lyricism in the second movement were never compromised. Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso also provided a large room for these two youthful artists’ high-spirited exuberance. Their dazzling ending stimulated an enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Mr. Sokolov’s Hong Kong debut embraced a wide ranged repertoire and ample expressivity. For a twenty-three year old youngster, this is a good starting point. But a more exquisite articulation and in depth connotation are the areas he needs to work on. Perhaps music by Bach and Mozart is beneficial to his future path. With his dazzling virtuosity, Mr. Sokolov has a bright outlook on his performance career.
Danny Kim-Nam Hui