Violin and piano competition winners show robust musical and technical gifts and fine rapport

Waikanae Music Society
Ioana Cristina Goicea (violin) and Andrey Gugnin (piano)

Schubert: Rondo in B minor, D.895, “Rondo Brilliant”
Enescu: Sonata no.3 “In Romanian folk Style”
Brahms: Sonata no.3 in D minor, Op.108
Brahms: Scherzo in C minor, from the F.A.E. Sonata

Waikanae Memorial Hall

Sunday 30 September 2018, 2:30 pm

A concert of illustrious music from an illustrious duo.  Ioana Cristina Goicea is the winner of the 2017 Michael Hill a Violin Competition, and Andrey Gugnin the winner of the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition.  Their tour of New Zealand with Chamber Music New Zealand is in association with the Michael Hill Competition.  A good-sized audience heard this noteworthy recital, the last in the Waikanae Music Society’s 2018 series.

It wasn’t difficult to see why such accomplished musicians won their respective competitions.  Both have won numbers of other international competitions also.

The Schubert Rondo starts dramatically, revealed gorgeous tone from the violin, and demonstrated much subtle shading of dynamics, and lyrical playing.  The piece switched between major an minor tonalities, and employed a persistent dotted rhythm.  This first section was marked andante.  The music became faster and more excited in the second section, allegro; even dance-like.

The piano gets a turn at expounding the theme, after more-or-less continuous violin.

The piece featured sundry false endings.  The last section was fast and brilliant: a showpiece for the violin.  The opening theme and the dotted rhythm return; there is quite a lot of repetition.  It was a spirited performance.

The next piece was in quite another genre, by the pre-eminent composer from the violinist’s homeland: Romania.  Enescu’s sonata was described in the programme notes as “Invigorating and edgy, one feels the pulse the pulse of Eastern European fold dance…”  (There were numerous misrelated dependant clauses like this in the notes; n.b.  NZSO, guilty often of the same grammatical error.)

The work’s chromatic opening was gentle, with Eastern European tonalities.  The notes slithered here and there, like a slow, seductive dance.  Then the music broke into a faster dance.  The tempo marking moderato malinconico means ‘moderately; melancholy’, but I didn’t find this a dominant feature.  Full-toned low notes from the violin were notable.  The music returned to the slower tempo before enlivening again, and closing pianissimo. This was an intrepid movement, full of variety.

The second movement, andante sostenuto e misterioso began similarly softly.  There were many brilliant touches for the violin, particularly in the upper register.  The music then broke into a jolly dance, with birds joyfully accompanying from above.  But the mood soon became ominous, as though a cloudburst had fallen on the dancers.  Exciting descending piano ripples followed, and then the peace was restored in a restrained, muted passage

The third movement, allegro con brio ma non troppo, featured sprightly music, in unison for a time, with decorations, and very rhythmic.  Then we were back to the deep notes from the unison section, the violin part being most effective, including fast pizzicato.  The movement brought to an end a spectacular musical journey.

Throughout, the ensemble between these two superb musicians was perfect.

After the interval, we came to more sombre music, by Brahms.  His third sonata for violin and piano opens melodiously, in D minor.  It was played very thoughtfully; every note beautifully placed; nothing unimaginatively slurred, the many delights in Brahms’s writing appropriately exposed.  The playing from both was robust when required, but always the tone and timbre were splendid.

Brahms always gives the piano plenty of interesting music to play.  A passionate rendering of the main theme brought the first movement (allegro) to an end.

The serious adagio second movement introduced a wonderful broad, calm theme; the movement ended as peacefully as it began.  The third movement, un poco presto e con sentimento features lively rhythm and chirpy sequences for both instruments.

The fourth movement, presto agitato,, has thematic links with what has gone before  There are grand statements with answering phrases, and many mellifluous episodes.  It becomes fast and hectic; cascades on the piano end it.

Last on the programme was a delightful scherzo, from a quartet written as a collaborative project with some of the composer’s close friends.  The letters F, A and E denote not only the musical pitches, but also the personal motto of his friend, violinist Joseph Joachim: ‘frei aber einsam‘ (free but lonely*).

It opened quite ambiguously as to key, like others of Brahms’s compositions.  This is an early work, and is more extravert than the later sonata we had just heard, although it soon became thoughtful, even sublime, before the busy opening sequence returned, interspersed by passages of great delicacy.

As well as showing great musical and technical ability, this duo exhibited a strong rapport; they played as a unity, with each nevertheless revealing their own particular skills.

*Gloss by Lindis Taylor
“I have always felt that this translation of Einsam doesn’t reflect what Brahms might have meant. Certainly, it translates as ‘lonely’, and that is the usual translation, but is also means and here feels better translated, according to my instinct, as ‘solitary’. The latter removes the element of self-pity that colours ‘lonely’, and my feeling about Brahms is that he valued being alone, but didn’t suffer loneliness – apart from the emotions that might have derived from his enigmatic relationship with Clara Schumann.”


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