Opera + Classical Music Reviews

All French but considerably varied: Three Violin Sonatas from Elena Urioste and Tom Poster at the Wigmore Hall

15 January 2023

Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

Well and lesser known works rubbed shoulders in this first rate recital.

With the exception of the encore, everything in this concert from violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Tom Poster was written by a French composer. It mainly comprised violin sonatas, and the programming ensured that the three on offer were varied, but not to such an extent that the fact their composers shared the same nationality seemed merely incidental. In performing each piece, Urioste and Poster demonstrated immense sensitivity towards its individuality, while still paying attention to the overarching culture that links them all.

The programme took us from the most to the least well known as the evening began with Debussy’s Violin Sonata in G minor (1916-17). With the piece eschewing all clichés associated with the form by harking back to the French Baroque rather than German Romanticism, Urioste and Poster brought out the numerous contrasts that are inherent in it extremely skilfully. Minutely managing the way in which it advances and then holds back, and indulging (although not to excess) in both its virtuosic and sentimental elements, Urioste’s playing felt particularly astute as it combined the shimmering with the dramatic.

Before embarking on the next sonata, the pair performed Lili Boulanger’s Introduction et Cortège (1914). Although the score for the first of the two is lost, a 1930 recording (with Lili’s sister Nadia playing the piano) enabled Poster to reconstruct it. He and Urioste brought out to the full the exquisiteness of the former element and the litheness of the latter, while ensuring that everything hung together from a technical perspective.

“…Urioste and Poster demonstrated immense sensitivity…”

Fauré wrote his Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 108 in 1916-17 when he was 71, though there is little in the composition to suggest the hand of a sedate ageing man. It seems positively to set the pianist against the violinist with the former’s busy, agitated and intense lines contrasting with the lyricism that the latter frequently strives to achieve. Poster and Urioste captured this tension perfectly while still delivering a performance that created a completely coherent whole.

Perhaps because it is not performed that often, the revelation of the evening was Mel Bonis’ Violin Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 112. As Poster explained, although it was published in 1922, it may well have been written in 1914 meaning that all of the works performed thus far came from a dark period during, or just preceding, the First World War. From the grand but volatile Moderato, to the Presto with its waltz rhythm, and from the dark and melancholic Lento to the optimistic Finale, the brilliance of the piece was clear as Urioste and Poster executed it with all of the care and attention it deserved.

By way of a ‘dessert course’, the concert ended with arrangements of four songs including Debussy’s Beau soir (c.1887-88) as arranged by Jascha Heifetz, and Kreisler’s take on Chamanide’s Sérénade espagnole, Op. 150 (1895). Hahn’s L’énamourée (1892) that followed was arranged by Urioste herself, and La Vie en rose that concluded the main programme by Poster. As was pointed out, the fact we associate the piece so much with singer Edith Piaf, who also contributed the lyrics, makes it easy to forget that it was actually composed in 1945 by Louiguy. The encore then broke with the French theme to present Harold Arlen’s Over the Rainbow (1939). The beautiful arrangement saw the violin assume the melody for the majority of the song, before the piano took it up for the start of the middle section, to bring a final touch of sparkle to what was an immensely accomplished concert. 

• For details of all of Elena Urioste and Tom Poster’s future events and recordings, including their joint album From Brighton to Brooklyn, visit their respective websites.

• For details of all upcoming concerts at the Wigmore Hall visit its website.

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All French but considerably varied: Three Violin Sonatas from Elena Urioste and Tom Poster at the Wigmore Hall