Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Nikolaj Znaider

Wednesday, March 26 8:00 PM
Herbst Theater
Nikolaj Znaider, violin
Robert Kulek, piano

BEETHOVEN: Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in E-flat Major
BACH: Partita No. 2 in D minor for Solo Violin
SCHOENBERG: Phantasy for Violin with Piano Accompaniment, Op. 47
BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata in G Major, Op. 96

BRAHMS: Hungarian Dances No. 17 & 7

I had never heard of Nikolaj Znaider before. I was attracted to this recital by the great program. The printed program listed the Bach 1st, but Znaider made his 1st entrance followed by his accompanist. He explained that due to the special nature of the Partita it made more sense to end the 1st half with it, leaving the silence after the Chaconne uninterrupted by Beethoven. This may have been a calculated bit of showmanship, but the Partita was indeed the highlight of the evening. Znaider has a complete & easy technical mastery, & he played the Partita with an intense focus. The Gigue flew by, & my ears were almost ringing after the sustained onslaught of sound of the Chaconne. Znaider got a scattered standing ovation after the Chaconne.

Znaider is a tall man, & the violin looks tiny in his hands. I kept watching his rapid bow arm & his use of the entire length of the bow. The program allowed him to show off his proficiency in different styles. He played the early Beethoven Sonata in a tight classical style, but played the final Beethoven Sonata broadly. He managed to give the Schoenberg a sense of shape & momentum, placing a climax near the end of the piece. Znaider is Danish, but the apparent ease of his playing reminds me of Israeli violinists like Perlman or Shaham.

Znaider's accompanist was a little sloppy, & musically I did not feel that there was a lot of communication between the 2 of them, even though they sometimes conferred between movements.

For some reason the audience applauded immediately after the 1st movement of the Beethoven Sonata that opened the program. I have no idea why this happened, since after this no one interrupted any other piece with inappropriate applause. Znaider gave us 2 vigorous encores & even threw in a down-bow staccato all the way to the tip of the bow in Hungarian Dance #7.

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