Music and Vision homepage




MALCOLM MILLER attended a recent concert
by violinist Grigory Zhislin


The Moscow-trained and London-based violinist Grigory Zhislin is an artist of distinction and imagination. His recital with the pianist Julian Gallant at London's St John's Smith Square on 30 May 2001, part of the Russian Millennial Series, attended by a small but select audience including many violinists, displayed outstanding playing. He has an uncanny ability to vary the colour of his instrument -- in this case a 1759 Guadagnini -- from resilient, bright resonance to caressing warmth, and so project different narrative and singing voices to interpret familiar works with fresh intensity and poetry. The stimulating programme featured two less often played early works by mainstream 20th century composers, Schnittke's Suite in the Old Style and Messiaen's Theme and Variations, alongside two masterpieces by Schubert and Franck.

Zhislin has an affinity for contemporary Russian and East European music, with a recent performance of Schnittke's Violin Concerto and works by Glazunov and Penderecki. What made his approach compelling here was the fine balance of aesthetic detachment and involvement to highlight the deeper expressive meaning of the style which anticipates Schnittke's later, more radical polystylism. After the lilting 'Pastorale', whose tonal harmonies are gently spiced, a more neo-Baroque texture ensues in 'Ballet' and 'Minuet', while the Bachian 'Fugue' seems almost straight pastiche; even here there are subtle 20th century touches -- a sustained note here, a rising counterpoint there, which Zhislin highlighted. In the final 'Pantomime', the tonal syntax breaks down into a sudden microtonal dissolution, like a picture in a cracked mirror, and the unresolved final cadence provides an evocative ending. Julian Gallant proved a virtuosic partner in the dramatic Fantaisie in C, D934 by Schubert, composed for the Czech violinist Josef Slavik in 1826. Their reading, particularly of the exuberant final section, evoked a Bohemian elan, highlighting formal coherence rather than the free form in which it can sometimes appear. The shimmering textures of the introduction, which reappears before the final section, were overlaid with Zhislin's romantic breathy and warm phrases. The variations on 'Sei mir Gegrüsst' that form the main torso of the movement flowed with electricity and poise, the duo's interplay full of life, sustaining momentum upto the majestic concluding section of almost orchestral splendour.

Continue >>

Copyright © 3 June 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




 << Music & Vision home           Van Cliburn pianists >>