2 July 2012
A large turn-out to a concert by Russian violinist Sergey Malov and New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun proves classical music appreciation is alive and well in Marlborough.
There was barely a spare chair in the concert room on Friday evening when Malov and Houstoun presented a programme of music by Bela Bartok, Franz Schubert, Niccolo Paginini and Robert Schumann at The Winery, Riverlands.
The show was one of 19 organised around the country by Chamber Music New Zealand as part of Malov's prize for winning the 2011 Michael Hill Jeweller International Violin Competition.
His virtuoso skills surely impressed all of Friday's concert goers, but I wondered if it was him or our own Kiwi keyboard player Houstoun who drew the crowd.
Nobody introduced either the performers or the music they played during the 90-minute recital, Malov's smile when he arrived on stage the only preamble before he started the first piece, Bartok's Sonata for Solo Violin. It was commissioned in 1943 by violinist Yehudi Menuhin who gave its first public performance a year later with Bartok in the audience. I think the composer would have liked Malov's technical skill and musical sensitivity.
I was impressed with his mastery of rapid note-changing and swift bow work, sometimes interspersed, without any audible interruption, by string-plucking. "Hmmm-mmm" the audience crooned appreciatively at the end.
The second piece, Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata performed by Malov as a duet with Houstoun, was even more warmly received. I liked the fuller sound the piano brought to the music and enjoyed hearing the two musicians playing off one another. They seemed to enjoy that too and when the music had ended they shook hands and gave each other discreet bows, honouring one another's skills.
The second half of the programme started with another solo piece by Malov, this time Paganini's La Campanella. It was more tuneful than the earlier Bartok violin solo but demanded equal mastery of the instrument.
The programme promoted Paganini's "singing melodies" and "instrumental pyrotechnics". Malov delivered all with seeming ease and when he left the stage to loud applause at the end, I looked through a window into the next room and saw Houstoun jumping up and down. Maybe he was warming up for his and Malov's final piece, Schumann's Sonata No 1 in A minor Opus 105. Like the first duet, the sonata was a platform for each player to demonstrate his instrumental prowess, challenging and complementing his musical partner's.
"Captivating", a man in the row behind me summarised when the last of the long, loud applause had ended.