These two young players, sponsored by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, had their audience spellbound, as much for the impression of unanimity and rapport which they established as for the innig quality (we have no word for the German inwardness) which was an essential part of their simpatico or sympathique playing (again no English equivalents), almost from the beginning.
‘Almost’ is an operative word here, because the short opening Subito by Lutoslawski, was just that: sudden, a real wake-up bravura fanfare, which swept away cobwebs to make the brain alert. At four minutes long it twisted and turned between short, lyrical phrases and sonorous and athletic rhetorical statements. Terrific rhythm.
The Mozart sonata was written for Regina Strinasacchi, aged 23, a virtuoso visiting Vienna. But note the title: the piano comes first. Mozart himself was her pianist in the concert for which he wrote the work and, as becomes clear, was to be the equal partner. The graceful tranquillity of the introduction was a solace after the Subito, and the duo brought a lovely simplicity also to the slow movement – the cantabile truly sang. The finale showed that ‘anything you can do’ was the composer’s statement of intent but both instruments had already woven equally together in the lyrical slow movement. This subdued loveliness of tone was a remarkable characteristic of the interpretation, in which, somehow, the hearer was caught up, hanging onto each phrase, however pianissimo.
That Beethoven could write such a predominantly serene sonata while he was coming to realise that his deafness was incurable, and was already almost total, may be explicable in part because of the calming influence of his retreat to Heiligenstadt in the Vienna woods. It was a very creative six months, and it included the three Op30 violin sonatas. Ruisi and Duisen rose to the contrasts of the strength of the first and the gentleness of the slow movement. These moods are not broken by any of the variations of the last movement which, even when in the minor, dig into reserves of vigour and quirkiness and also of tranquillity.
César Franck wrote little chamber music and that, like this his only Violin Sonata, late in life (he died four years later). Two related themes, the first gentle, the second rhetorical (and with the description ‘dramatico’) pervade the whole work. It is very well known and drew from these two young performers an authority and a passion which were remarkable. They elicited such richness from their instruments and piling on of phrases, especially in the finale which alternates rhetoric and dolce cantabile, that they left an impression of virtuosi vying with an orchestra. Their beautifully silky thread of tone was an abiding memory. Here were both the passion and the pianissimi which were characteristic of the evening.
Thank heaven that their encore, Fauré’s chanson ‘Après un rêve’, maintained the mood of grace and sheer pleasure of the evening.