Review: Martha Argerich, Janine Jansen and Mischa Maisky at Barbican

As chamber music concerts go, this was an epic battle. Martha Argerich led the charge on piano dominating during the first half, tamed in the second. If you’re looking for who triumphed it was violinst Janine Jansen. Not that it was a competition obviously.

Beethoven Cello Sonata in G minor. Defiant. Urgent. Compelling. Some moments of intonation oddness. Martha strong, almost severe. A fierce second movement followed during which two heroes teetered on the edge of a precipice.

The Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2 in e minor saw three distinct personalities on stage. Their presence established gripping drama before the music began. The end of the first movement was the high point of the first half – musically it leaves you hanging, desperate for resolution. The second movement was terrifying, the fragile third movement oddly ambiguous.

Janine Jansen was a good foil for Martha during the Schumann Violin Sonata No. 1. It was though Janine was given her moment – or maybe she insisted backstage?

The Schumann was undoubtedly the highpoint in the concert (unlike the Shostakovich where I saw one reviewer fall asleep in the second and then snore himself awake in the third movement) as this is the work where other people are busily scribbling things.

The second movement finished tenderly. Rambling sections followed in the third; balance between the personalities restored during the faster sections.

The concluding Mendelsohn saw the personalities settle their difference. Balance located. Violin and cello were given more of the light. The fluidity of Martha Argerich’s technique maintained its stunning fluidity, but there was a lessening of the intensity that seemed fitting as we approached the conclusion of proceedings.

The agonising beauty of the second movement was followed by the third that seemed to career angrily around the stage. Still, Martha Argerich appeared held in check by Janine Jansen and Mischa Maisky who solidly held their own throughout the third and fourth movements.

Gripping stuff. Loved it.


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