Reviewed by Robert Hugill on May 27 2014
Spectacular duets for violin and guitar from young duo
For our first visit to the Dresden Music Festival (on 27 May 2014) we attended a concert given by American violinist Karen Gomyo and Finnish guitarist Ismo Eskelinen at Schloss Wackerbarth. The centre piece of their programme was a sequence of piece for violin and guitar by Niccolo Paganini, along with music by Antonio Vivaldi, Pietro Antonio Locatelli and Mauro Giuliani.
They opened with the Sonata for violin and basso continuo Op.2 no.2 RV 31 by Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741) in which Eskelinen played the basso continuo on the guitar. A short, rhapsodic prelude introduced us to the rather different, yet attractive texture of violin and guitar. This was followed by an elegant Allegro with Gomyo displaying lovely sweet tone and fine technique. A free and rhapsodic Andante led to a final Allegro full of perky charm.
Niccolo Paganini (1782 - 1840) wrote his collection Centone di Sonate Op. 64 around 1828. The Sonata no. 1 in A minor from the collection is a two movement work combining an Introduzione and a Rondoncinio. The first movement started with a dramatic rhapsody before leading to a more structured section with a lovely jaunty, rather naughty tune. In the rondo, the repeats of the main theme gave the composer the excuse for exploring all sorts of styles, and Gomyo responded well to the technical challenges playing with brilliance and charm.
Afterwards Gomyo played Paganini's Caprice for Violin solo in A major, Op.1 no.21 again showing superb aplomb in the face of Paganini's demands. The duo finished the first half with Paganini's own arrangement of his Caprice in A minor, Op.1 no.24 (La Folia) for violin and guitar. It was still very much the violinist's show, but Eskelinen did get one or two moments to show off.
The interval gave us a chance to wander round the historic grounds of the winery, and also to sample some of their wares; the shop was open too for those who wanted to take some home.
The first half opened with a work for guitar solo, Rossiniana for Guitar solo Op.119 no.1 by Mauro Giuliani (1781 - 1829) Giuliani was an Italian guitar virtuoso, cellist and composer and he wrote six fantasies on themes for Rossini's operas. Eskelinen played one which used themes from Otello, Italiana in Algeri and Armida, a charming piece in which Giuliani treated each of his themes in quite straightforward fashion but brought in increasing technical elaboration in each repeat of the music. All performed by Eskelinen with charm and skill.
Gomyo then joined Eskelinen for the Romanza from Paganini's Grand Sonata for guitar and violin, Op.53. This was the only work in the programme where Paganini seemed to allow the guitar to occasionally take the lead and in the whole piece the guitar seemed more dominant in the texture which made for an attractive change.
Paganini's Sonate for Violin and Guitar in A major Op.2 no.1 was again a two movement work, the first movement combined a singing violin with straightforward guitar accompaniment, the second a charming polonaise theme with increasing elaboration in the violin. The duo finished with the Variations on the Carneval in Venice, Op.10, a work which proved an amazing compendium of outrageous violin techniques, all brought off with aplomb by Gomyo.
The capacity audience was rightly most enthusiastic and we were treated to to encores, two movements from Piazzolla's suite L'Histoire du Tango. Both were finely played but seemed to be in too great a contrast to the main body of the programme; rather too long and too serious to be encore pieces. Very finely played, the two encores gave a sense that this is what the performers would rather have been playing.
Elsewhere on this blog:
- WIN:A study day with Bellini and Nelly Miricioiu
- Poetic elegance: Jennifer Pike plays Sibelius Violin Concerto - CD review
- Intriguing premiere: Edward Lambert's Six Characters In Search Of A Stage - opera review
- Peace and Celebration: EUBO plays Handel - CD review
- More Explorations: Jonny Greenwood and the BBC Concert Orchestra - concert review
- Explorations: 50 years of Nonesuch Records - concert review
- Toe Tapping: Vivaldi L'Incoronazione di Dario - CD review
- Birthday celebrations: Kronos Quartet at 40 - concert review
- All the fun of the fair: Cosi fan Tutte at ENO - opera review
- 300 Christmas Songs: Arditti Quartet - concert review
- Vale of Glamorgan: Clare Hammond in recital - concert review
- Vale of Glamorgan: Quatuor Tana in search of the contemporary string quartet - concert review
- Vale of Glamorgan: Chamber Choir Ireland - concert review