Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Wigmore Hall, London

Guest Reviewer, David Truslove

In the latest of the live no-audience Wigmore Hall concerts, South-Korean violinist Hyeyoon Park joined forces with her regular pianist collaborator Benjamin Grosvenor for a recital bringing together French or (if you prefer) Belgian romanticism and Polish exoticism.

They opened with Szymanowski’s Mythes (Opus 30, 1915), a work through which a strong Gallic Impressionism permeates its three classically-inspired pieces. The watery evocation of ‘The Fountain of Arethusa’ (portraying the spring into which the nymph Arethusa was turned by the God Artemis) was impressively caught, Grosvenor’s delicate shimmering and Park’s impeccable technique fully equal to the music’s ecstatic soaring and otherworldly intoxication. There was sweet-toned dreaminess in the self-obsessed ‘Narcissus’ (the Greek God who fell in love with his own reflection) where Park’s exquisite pianissimos developed out of nowhere to magical effect. Challenges in ‘Dryads and Pan’ were similarly overcome and evocations of insect-life on a drowsy summer’s day, violin quarter-tone trills, and Pan playing his flute with a rainbow of harmonics were both marvellously achieved, Grosvenor aiding and abetting throughout with scrupulous attention to detail and making light of the composer’s demands.

Franck’s Sonata in A for Violin and Piano (1886) was written as a wedding present for the distinguished Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. Here it was given an unsentimental account, the opening Allegretto not lacking in tenderness, but not disembodied either. Drama felt somewhat underplayed in the turbulent second movement, nobility emerging rather than unbridled passion. But what a warmly expressive and yielding tone Park can make and it was in the ‘Recitativo-Fantasia’ where both musicians probed the emotional heart of the work, its serene rumination made one yearn to experience the collective held breath of an audience. By contrast and despite glowing lyricism, the Finale felt a little ordinary, the closing bars climatic if not totally triumphant.

Park and Grosvenor closed with an extra, ‘Abendlied’, a transcription by Leopold Auer of the last (XII) of Robert Schumann’s four-handed Klavierstücke für kleine und große Kinder, Opus 85.