Friday, February 13, 2015

Le Jardin de Janine

Janine Jansen and Itamar Golan at Zankel Hall Feb 10 2015  

A lovely program of two sonatas coupled with character pieces: the first half devoted to Prokofieff, opening with the Five Melodies, then the F minor sonata. The second half was given to Ravel, ending with Tzigane.
Ms. Jansen is an elegant, refined and dignified artist; her pianist, rather less so. The concert left a strange taste. The Five Melodies have such delicacy, sumptuous harmonies and wry pathos - It seemed that the violinist didn't play through to the heart of the music here and throughout the evening. Perhaps she was accommodating the headstrong brashness of her partner, who, if not necessarily overpowering in volume, was thick, his impasto strokes wearying the listener very quickly. The Sonata was missing a steely bitterness from both players, and in the opening movement, her scales that represent the wind over the graves were even and pristine though not bone-chilling.

   The second movement was abrasive, but lacking in Soviet militaristic inexorability. There was misplaced glibness from unnecessary ritards. In the mystical slow movement it was wild to hear the violinist play as if she had a sostenuto pedal - her legato triplets were sublime, as were her soaring melodies. Her partner was secco. The last movement was vivacious and sparkling enough but missing was desperation and austerity. This work should be exhausting, draining, impossible. The ensemble was adequate. 

   The Ravel Sonata skewed towards a more neo-classic approach, i.e., a dry one without sensuality, or, in the Blues movement, sexuality. The climax of the first movement was unmotivated, the rise and fall of the extended coda turbulent in a way most bumpy. In the Moto Perpetuo the finesse and suppleness of the violinist's efforts were mostly buried by her concertante pianist. 

   In the Tzigane, the cadenza was headstrong and breathless without her usual assurance, and the 'harp' entrance in the piano distracted through lack of pedal. These players chose some mannered affects; peculiar over-accents, questionable timings, distended tempi.

   Fauré's Après Un Reve was the first encore, and next was Kreisler's most delightful Marche Miniature Viennoise, immaculate from both musicians, if short on crème.

   I look forward to Ms. Jansen, a princess in all best senses of the word and a consummate chamber musician, in future performances of varied repertoire and partners. She is nothing short of urbane, subtle, and brilliant.

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