VIAF 2014

Fine and refined musicianship from Argotti Trio

Yesterday evening an appreciative audience enjoyed a thoroughly well-devised and intelligent programme of works ranging from the Baroque to the contemporary by the Argotti Trio. Made up of Maria Conrad and Nemanja Ljubinkovich on the violin, together with pianist Philip Walsh, this concert attested to the fine and refined musicianship that these three performers undoubtedly possess not only as individuals but as a team.

Commencing a performance with a Vivaldi work can never be a mistake, if played with the right temperament and attention to detail that a Baroque work inevitably asks for. Maria, Nemanja and Philip are very intelligent players and the sonority and freshness that Vivaldi carries with him through decades and centuries were all there to savour and enjoy. The dialogic exchange between the violins maintained and sustained a fine balance, fully adhering to the Baroque doctrine of the emotions in the antiphonal responses, and the sensitive pianist provided more than adequate basis for the developing contrapuntal networks on the strings.

Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata was followed by Moskowski’s Suite for 2 Violins and Pianoforte in G Minor op. 71, a work that is almost of epic proportions not only in content but also in form. Bordering on the dramatic, the work asks for robust and intense playing, an intellectual reading of a score that could easily go awry by a potential alienating of the emotional thrust of the work. Providing a much-needed respite from the vigour of the first movement, the second movement came across as calm and subdued and it takes some fine control on the part of the players to make the transition from intense involvement in the first movement to a complete relaxation in the second. Some busy playing towards the end of this movement again shifts to the most tranquil and romantic moods of the third slow movement, one that was very well played in an intensely quiet way which, however, was never sentimentalized. The final movement again assumed the vigour and robust playing of the first movement and here, the performers again showed some wonderful ensemble playing, rounding of this magnificent Suite with a flourish.

There is something delicately and nonchalantly ironic about a twentieth-century French work – think Poulenc, and, in this case, also Milhaud. The cyclic organization of the work performed, namely, Sonata for 2 Violins and Pianoforte op. 15, was in evidence throughout and one that the performers did not miss to notice and gently stress. Assuming an aura of cool detachment, this work is a hard nut to crack and one that takes strong doses of intelligence to pull it through. Argotti Trio rose up to the occasion and what could have turned out to be a drab performance was one endowed with the right amount of almost post-Impressionistic colour. Apart from the very fine violin playing, worthy of mention here is the pianist’s control and involvement, a seemingly paradoxical situation that attests to Philip Walsh’s superb playing.

The performance came to a close with Sarasate’s Navarra op. 33, a work that, as the name implies, is Spanish, carrying the full mettle of wonderful Spanish tunes, exciting rhythms, and devilishly difficult finger-work. Swirling, intertwining lines merged, collided, bounced off each other and literally exploded into a myriad colours and nuances. High pitch was no easy task for the violins, nor were the harmonics, but it was par for the course for Maria and Nemanja!

The long and sustained applause that greeted the performers at the end was well-merited and deserved! We look forward to more such exciting evenings!