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Brahms, Joachim, Fribbins, Shostakovich

Brahms Sonata for Viola and Piano in F Minor
Joachim Hebrew Melodies
Schumann Adagio and Allegro

Peter Fribbins Two Fantasias for Viola & Piano
Shostakovich Sonata for Viola and Piano Op 147

Eniko Magyar viola Diana Brekalo piano

St John's, London 10 June 2011

This was a recital of continual interest, through which Eniko Magyar was supremely at ease and confident in a diverse and demanding programme. The tone from her Grancino c1700 viola was sumptuous, and might have encouraged children there (who were commendably quiet) to take up the viola.

The partnership with her pianist was variable. They were in perfect accord for the lovely Melodies of Joachim, a rarity well worth bringing to notice, and for Peter Fribbins' Fantasias, composed for Sarah-Jane Bradley and Eniko Magyar; pleasant pieces, very much solos with accompaniments; the second one (on a Hungarian theme) received a successful première* at this recital and would be good for an encore.

Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro from 1849 was originally scored for horn and piano and known by the title of ‘Romanze und Allegro’. One of Schumann's goals at the time was to create significant music that amateurs could use to further their skills; Schumann also published versions of the piece with the violin or cello taking the solo part. So it was interesting to hear it on viola which mostly worked well (we had heard the orginal horn version in the same hall last month).

The Brahms sonata was less successful; Eniko Magyar was imperturbable but Diana Brekalo was heavy handed and sometimes splashy in the more strenuous passages. Diana was at her best in a riveting account of the rare, late and depressive Shostakovich sonata, his last long death-pervaded work, with its extraordinary extended and spare last movement. Eniko maintained complete poise and concentration in it, holding attention with extreme pianissimo pizzicatos that took the music into the dynamic range of the clavichord, and also showing that the Grancino can communicate edgy bite in the contrasting middle movement.

Not a jolly piece to end the evening, but they were right not to follow it with an encore.

Diana Brekalo had impressed in the Shostakovich's first concerto (with trumpet) at Cadogan Hall** - that concert is available to download from their website (but lacking Peter Fribbins' new piano concerto, I wonder why?). Nonetheless, recommended.

Peter Grahame Woolf


*See a review of Eniko Magyar in 2009

** A younger Diana Brekalo can be seen on YouTube doing the Shostakovich in Bremen, 2003.

and a fuller review of this latest concert on Seen&Heard