An astonishing display of violin virtuosity

Maxim Vengerov is often touted as “the world’s finest violinist” or even “the greatest strings player alive today”.

Dec 03, 2015, updated Dec 03, 2015
Maxim Vengerov performing in Adelaide. Photo: Sue Hedley

Maxim Vengerov performing in Adelaide. Photo: Sue Hedley

Such epitaphs can usually be ignored, but in Vengerov’s case, every word is justified.

I seriously doubt I will ever again witness such astonishing violin virtuosity.

This special Gala Recital to mark Musica Viva’s 70th anniversary also featured Roustem Saitkoulov on piano. He is a gifted musician and a regular collaborator with Vengerov.

The recital at the Adelaide Festival Centre opened with a cornerstone of the canon for solo violin, the from Bach’s Second Violin Partita.  This was followed by Beethoven’s brooding Seventh Violin Sonata. Vengerov explored every layer of resonance in this complex composition.

After the interval, he really picked up the pace with Ravel’s starkly modern Second Sonata in G major.  A lesser-known piece, Eugene Ysaye’s Sonata in E major, made a nice contrast and offered delightful hints of Flamenco.

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The Etude no 6 The Last Rose of Summer, by Heinrich Ernst, was the absolute highlight of the program.  Its extraordinary notation demands intense technical skills and Vengerov’s mastery made it look effortless.  This is the first time I have heard a classical audience actually gasp in surprise and admiration!

Two brief works by Niccolo Paganini rounded out the program with a magnificent flourish for both violin and piano.  Together, these works demonstrated the enormous range of classical composition for the violin and proved absolutely why Vengerov is held in such esteem.

Vengerov and Saitkoulov were well rewarded with an immediate standing ovation from the Festival Theatre audience.  Three encores later, we knew we had experienced a truly exceptional musical event.

Musica Viva’s 70th Anniversary Gala was presented for one night only at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Festival Theatre, before heading to Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.


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