Mulled Wine Concerts Paekakariki
Rustem Khamidullin (cello) and Sarah Watkins (piano)
Schubert: Sonata in A minor ‘Arpeggione’
Schumann: Three fantasy pieces, Op 73
Rachmaninov: Sonata in G minor – the 3rd movement, Andante
Franck: Sonata in A (for violin, arranged for cello)
Paekakariki Memorial Hall
Sunday 19 June, 2:30 pm
I had gone to my third encounter with Rustem Khamidullin, not to write about it but just to enjoy without a pen in my hand, to hear him in another context. And of course, the pleasure of being able to get there by train, being able to look at the heavy seas and Kapiti Island from high on the cliffs north from Pukerua Bay rather than seeing little while driving on the road, and then a pleasant 12 minute walk to the hall. (Witnessing the thousands of one-to-a-car commuters from Kapiti, and their passion for Transmission Gully, I wonder that the population seems indifferent to its lovely train service).
It was such a treat that when I got home the computer keyboard seemed to plead for attention.
Word had got out that this would be a great concert, and so it was, with a full house. But it was not just the Russian cellist who made it such a fine recital; it was also his collaborator Sarah Watkins, well known at Paekakariki as part of the NZ Trio, who proved just as excellent in duo as in trio. I couldn’t help thinking that the cellist would have been delighted to find such a fine, totally empathetic pianist.
Khamidullin’s secret is the unusual subtlety and the secretiveness with which he handles soft passages, and which Watkins mirrors so perfectly so that neither ever obscures the sounds the other is making. That helped make the Schubert sonata, for the short-lived hybrid called the arpeggione, into a more interesting and attractive piece than I sometimes feel it is.
The Schumann pieces, which he cast primarily for the clarinet, are pretty familiar; he envisaged them also as suited for viola or cello. The three pieces hold challenges for both piano and cello and I was very impressed by the flights of virtuosity and the virtually flawless ensemble that the two maintained.
After the interval the duo played the slow movement – Andante – from Rachmaninov’s cello sonata (actually the only piece in the programme written specifically for the cello), where the wide-spaced melodies caught the spirit of the second piano concerto which he’d completed just before this sonata; some of the piano writing is of concerto-style virtuosity, though it was never cluttered as one instrument made room for the other to take the spotlight. My only problem was what wasn’t played before and after the Andante. But that would have taken over half an hour.
Finally Franck’s violin sonata, which is so emotional and unashamedly melodic that it gets borrowed by other instrumentalists, even the flute (recently by flutist Rebecca Steel with Diedre Irons, which I thought wonderful). But I’ve loved Franck ever since hearing the then National Orchestra play the Symphony in D minor in the 50s (I suspect) and then hearing this sonata shortly after.
This was a quite seriously passionate performance, starting with the calm Allegretto moderato which seems a sort of smoldering anticipation of the Allegro where, particularly, the piano part is excitable while the violin/cello maintains the lovely melodies.
A most enjoyable concert, that attracted a full house. We got two encores (Hora Staccato and Rachmaninov’s song ‘How fair this Spot’, Op 21 No 7), in response to the entire audience coming to its collective feet at the end of the Franck.