VIAF 2022


This memorable silver edition of the VIAF marches on. A few days before its conclusion, a very lucky audience of which I was privileged to be a part, was regaled to an unforgettable recital by a splendid husband-and-wife duo. The lady is German and her husband is Swiss united in a musical partnership astounding by its power, the richness of interpretation and the ability to enchant those lucky enough to experience their music-making. For music they did make, and how!

There already was something special in their playing when they set off with Grieg’s three-movement Sonata for violin and piano n.3, in C minor, Op. 45. The mutual rapport and balance were very evident. The work came off with all its particular characteristics especially considering those of his much earlier companions. There were the stark contrasts of dramatic passages offset by the more lyrical ones. The latter was the inevitable melodies and rhythms reminiscent of song and dance, the very things at which Grieg was so good. They are recognisable and could not be anybody else’s. This carried on to the very end when the concluding Prestissimo’s rather irate coda gave way to something far more happy and carefree.

There are obvious links between the three sections or movements of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Op. 42. They are his various, happy reminiscences of one of the many sprawling estates owned by his wealthy patroness, Nadezhda von Meck. These pieces, all for violin and piano are also known in arrangements for violin and orchestra. One even is a discarded middle movement originally meant for Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto. The three sections were all impeccably performed and there were the expected different tempo indications one expects. The first one was a Méditation: Andante molto cantabile followed by the second piece, a suitably playful Scherzo: presto giocoso. The best known was the last piece, Mélodie: Moderato con moto with its shades of wistful melancholy.

The unmistakable zenith, the undoubted peak of the evening was César Franck’s only sonata for violin and piano, which is in A Major. I do not know if there could be anybody who could remain immune to this work. I first heard it years ago and was immediately and perpetually hooked. Much as I love Brahms I could never share his disdain for it. Very well, I am very partial to it and regarding the performance by the Schmid-Weder duo, anything I could say would be superfluous. It is difficult to improve with words what was so absolutely magical, warm, ethereal, dramatic, powerful and even spiritual about this great work. I think my feet could not touch the ground for quite a while. The applause in that Aula was deafeningly intense and after the otherworldly atmosphere reached the sonata, the duo’s much-appreciated encore was a very heart-warming little waltz by Brahms, at his sweetest.

Albert George Storace