Tai Murray and Silke Avenhaus
January 30 2020
Review: William Ruff
Epic, always impressive playing…but balance not always ideal
Violinist Tai Murray and pianist Silke Avenhaus didn’t exactly make life easy for themselves in their Thursday night Lakeside recital. There was no easy-on-the-fingers warm-up piece; instead they plunged straight into a demanding programme of three highly virtuosic violin sonatas, ending with the Mount Everest of the repertoire, Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata.
Beethoven himself said that this sonata is almost like a concerto and it was the work’s epic qualities which shone through this Murray/Avenhaus performance right from the brooding introduction with its atmospheric double stopping, the heroic Presto which follows and the central, intricate, extrovert set of variations. And then there was the gleeful final tarantella whose wild exuberance produced dazzling playing from both musicians.
Such monumental music can pose a problem, however, and it’s one of balance. Tai Murray’s violin dates from 1785 and her sweet, relatively light sound was pitched against Silke Avenhaus at Lakeside’s modern Steinway. So there were times when the piano (with its lid up) seemed to be winning a battle when it could have been engaging more in supportive dialogue.
This was even more pronounced in the recital’s first half. There was undoubtedly much exciting playing in Grieg’s 2nd Violin Sonata, a springy, folk-inspired piece full of the happiness of a man on his honeymoon (when he wrote it), inspired by dance rhythms and with a delicate, serene slow movement. In its louder, more exuberant moments, however, better balance may have led to greater transparency.
Saint-Saens’ 1st Violin Sonata is even more extrovert and makes even greater demands on the violin/piano partnership. The Murray/Avenhaus duo brought out the dark, passionate nature of the opening theme, the sensuous nature of the slow movement, the delicate, lighter-than-air quality of the scherzo, the dramatic contrasts and virtuosic panache of the whirling finale. But again balance wasn’t always ideal.
However, in their Ravel encore it was and the subtle rhythms and colours of his Pièce en forme de Habanera made it a delightful way to end an impressive recital.
Tai Murray, violin
Silke Avenhaus, piano