Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Gidon Kremer’s 75th Birthday Concert at the Wigmore Hall

20 February 2022

Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

A special occasion characterised by brilliant playing and sincerity.

This recital marking Gidon Kremer’s 75th birthday revealed everything one would expect from one of the preeminent violinists in the world today, and something more again. The added ingredient did not derive from elements such as speeches celebrating Kremer’s life and career, but rather from the sincerity that was brought to the occasion by Kremer’s own words at the start of the second half, and the very nature of the playing.

The evening began with Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor Op. 110 (1851), in which the brilliance of Kremer’s bowing technique immediately came to the fore as the fullness in his sound was accompanied by a notable litheness. He was joined by cellist Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė and pianist Georgijs Osokins for a performance that was characterised by the extent to which the three of them seemed to dig deep to get under the skin of the piece. Moments of real tension such as in the opening Bewegt, doch nicht zu rasch were tempered by those of greater lightness and beauty. The attention to detail and phrasing were impeccable, and all of these elements came together to create a performance that paid due attention to the full variety of moods inherent in the piece, yet carried an appropriate underlying intensity throughout.

Kremer followed this with the same composer’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor WoO. 27 (1853), in which he once again displayed his versatility. He brought out the contrast between the rapid and languid phrases in the opening Ziemlich langsam while still applying an overarching unity to both, demonstrated some brilliantly controlled double stopping and revealed his lighter bowing action to the full in the Finale. He and Osokins were also with each other for every step of the journey as the latter delivered quite astonishing playing all evening.

“This recital… revealed everything one would expect from one of the preeminent violinists in the world today…”

If the first half of the concert, however, delivered everything we would expect but not necessarily more, the second really did raise the evening to another level. Kremer announced that he would not be playing, as had been advertised, Weinberg’s Nocturne from 3 Pieces for violin and piano (1934), but rather Igor Loboda’s Requiem and Victoria Poleva’s Amapola. He explained that the reason for the change was ‘the world’, and that he was dedicating these pieces to the people of the Ukraine and the situation they currently face. It was Kremer’s gesture, as well as the pieces themselves, that suddenly made the evening extremely poignant.

Georgian composer Loboda originally wrote Requiem for Lisa Batiashvili, with him dedicating the solo violin piece to the victims of the Ukraine conflict in 2014. The piece, which features a notable interplay between upward and downward bow strokes and pizzicato, spoke of sorrow, struggle and spirit and was deeply moving. Equally so was Poleva, whose performance in this concert constituted the world premiere, with Osokins’ rippling piano interacting with Kremer’s light bowing and Dirvanauskaitė’s smooth cello playing.

Although it was in a very understated way, the evening could not have felt more moving by this point, and the atmosphere that had already been generated was sustained throughout Rachmaninov’s incredible Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor Op. 9 (1893; revised 1907 and 1917). The audience remained gripped from start to finish in this fifty minute piece, with the unrelenting repetitive rhythm ‘pounded’ out by the piano at the beginning and end, accompanied on the latter occasion by a deep cello sound, making for a performance, and indeed a concert, that will live long in the memory.

A 2015 recording of Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor Op. 9 with Kremer on violin, Dirvanauskaitė on cello and Daniil Trifinov on piano is available on a CD released in 2017 on the Deutsche Grammophon label.

For details of all of Gidon Kremer’s upcoming performances visit his website.

For details of all of the Wigmore Hall’s upcoming events visit the designated website.

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