Lana Trotovsek plays Beethoven Violin Sonatas



Conway Hall, London ****

Holborn's Conway Hall is a little gem of a venue, its auditorium cosily wood-surrounded, its atmosphere welcoming, and its loyalty of audience-members heartening, not least in its regular series of early evening Sunday recitals.

Violinist Lana Trotovsek and pianist Maria Canyigueral had a packed audience not even dropping a pin during this meaty all-Beethoven programme bringing three of the composer's violin sonatas, including the two most famous, the 'Spring' and the 'Kreutzer'.

The lesser-known Sonata no.8 made a huge impression here, bringing a wonderful interplay between violin and piano, Trotovsek and Canyigueral so attentive and responsive to each other, shaping phrases subtly and arrestingly. Unfortunately the power of the hall's Bosendorfer piano (such a sturdy bass), its lid open on full stick, sometimes overwhelmed the delicate pianissimos suggested by the violin, though the musicality constantly conveyed by the duo was never suppressed.

Lana Trotovsek is a violinist whose superlative technique is merely a springboard for the sheer imaginativeness of her interpretation of even well-worn works such as the 'Spring' and the 'Kreutzer' Sonatas.

In the former, for example, she built up an intensity through the repeated figures of the opening movement, and, together with the excellent Canyigueral, sometimes held up momentum in order to make the next point tell.

In the latter, she achieved eloquent voice-leading in the introduction's multiple-stopping, pounced like a tigress on the main movement's repeated gestures, gave a lift to the phrasing of the central variations (no respectful somnolence here), and, brilliantly partnered by Canyigueral, brought the finale's tarantella to an athletic conclusion, after which the andante espressivo from Beethoven's Violin Sonata no.6 proved a soothing encore.

These two ladies certainly know how to handle a crisis, too. Throughout the Kreutzer second half of the recital the lighting kept flickering, fading, and then coming back full on, leaving the performers sometimes in virtual darkness. Their mental and muscle memory kept them going during these incidents, but the problem is something that the otherwise treasurable Conway Hall needs to address.

Christopher Morley

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