A memorable evening
Maurice Hasson's 70th birthday recital
with Gabriela Montero
was a notable 2005 Wigmore Hall event
for BILL NEWMAN
This was a rare recital for all connoisseurs of the violin. The French-born Hasson, who adopted Venezuela as his home from 1960-73 now uses London as his base, but has appeared in numerous other countries across the globe and is also well known and admired on European Radio and Television. Gabriela Montero, the pianist born in Caracas, Venezuela, is an international prize winner at the 1995 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw as well as other prestigious events. She has enjoyed the services of a list of conductors as long as your arm, and made festival appearances of similar magnitude, particularly at the Martha Argerich Festival both in Buenos Aires and Lugano.
They make the perfect musical pair. Hasson was a pupil of Henryk Szeryng and has recorded widely -- although I saw nothing actually on sale at the hall's front table for the labels EMI-Classics for Pleasure, Pickwick or Philips, but this may apply to the present London scene and the perils of disc availability. I still treasure his Classics For Pleasure Brahms Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under James Loughran on LP. He is currently Professor and Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, here, and performs on his precious Benvenuti, a Stradivarius dating from 1727. Montero's Palexa CDs have been highly praised in Diapason and the American Record Guide. A new EMI début CD is on its way as part of the series 'Martha Argerich presents'.
The concert on 28 January 2005 began with Fauré's Sonata No 1 in A Op 13; the lovely piece which was immortalized by Thibaud and Cortot, then, later in the 1950s by Francescatti and Casadesus. It was therefore a great pleasure to hear once more violin sounds that caressed the listener by their ecstacy and purity of phrasing and notation. Although, more recently I enjoyed Hilary Hahn's performance, Hasson possesses those precious feelings of temperament and authenticity over and above a natural ability to allow his instrument to sing the legato phrases without forcing the tone. Paris was a city of charm and romance in the 1870s, and those touches of Gallic wit hardly disturb the music's serenity.
Debussy's last completed Sonata is a gem, but is rarely played nowadays as it should sound. The suave brevity of its contrasting phrasework imparts alternating sequences of nonchalance and exactness within a close-knit framework. There is more than the hint of regrets, sadness and final conclusions, and the emotions were finely felt by both artists. The passage 'Chickens' in the last movement, which I discussed years back with Joseph Szigeti, was played at the correct poco più mosso.
Prokofiev's Sonata No 1, renowned for its melancholy introspection and sudden outbursts, unlike the style of past performers David Oistrakh (the work's dedicatee), Isaac Stern and Yehudi Menuhin, sounded a much gentler affair in the hands of Hasson and Montero. Perhaps if one substitutes the words 'Late Romantic' for 'Epic Grandeur', you can hear some of the work's detail more clearly, and this includes the pungent writing during the second movement.
Gabriela Montero's vibrant jazz improvisations concluded a memorable evening.
Copyright © 21 June 2005
Bill Newman, Edgware UK
LONDON'S WIGMORE HALL