Concert review: Violin virtuoso Vadim Repin and colleagues on a febrile high

Russian violinist Vadim Repin. -- PHOTO: VADIM REPIN 
Russian violinist Vadim Repin. -- PHOTO: VADIM REPIN 

SYNERGY IN MUSIC 2014

Vadim Repin & Russian Maestros

Victoria Concert Hall/Tuesday

Synergy In Music is an annual concert presented by the Russian energy giant Gazprom featuring Russian musicians as a gift of friendship and cooperation between the world's biggest nation and Singapore. This year's offering saw a return of renowned violin virtuoso Vadim Repin with five colleagues as equal partners in chamber music.

The two-hour-plus concert also showcased Victoria Concert Hall as a premier chamber music venue, where just a small group of players could fill the 650-seat space with a glorious and full-toned sonority. There was a change in the order of programme such that the most serious works were played first, beginning with Prokofiev's late Sonata for two violins in C major.

That there was little separating Repin and Tatiana Samouil was a credit to the musicianship involved, both musicians finely attuned to its elusive idiom of lyricism and dissonance. Their intonation was close to spotless and the ensemble so tight as to be indivisible. Its sequence of four alternating slow and fast movements resulted in the audience applauding prematurely after the lively second movement.

Next was Beethoven's String Trio in C minor (Op. 9 No. 3) which bristled in its moments of con brio (with life) and breathed longeurs that looked forward to his later quartets. Samouil, violist Igor Naidin (member of the famous Borodin Quartet) and cellist Alexander Buzlov gave a well-judged reading that captured the young German's preening ambition and subtle humour, ending with a quiet cadence when one was expecting fireworks.

The first half closed emphatically with Repin and violist Andrey Usov in the well-known Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia, which comprised a series of very short variations played over a ground bass. Again, two became one in a veritable feast of counterpoint. Seventy-five minutes had elapsed almost imperceptibly.

Cellist Evgeny Rumyantsev joined the group in the second half, which belonged to Tchaikovsky's String Sextet, better known as Souvenir Of Florence. Its chamber ensemble version even rivals his Serenade For Strings in popularity and wealth of good tunes. The overall sunny and cheerful disposition also makes it unusual for a composer known for his morose and tragic musings.

Here Repin clearly assumed the role of leader and soloist, playing the main melodies while being accompanied by his five partners. He did so with a natural flair and gusto. The only hint of melancholy came in the slow movement, where he and cellist Buzlov shared the spotlight and their intertwined voices became an impassioned love duet.

The last two movements showcased fast playing, but the unity as a group was never in doubt as the heat of the moment rose in tandem with the tempo of the music. Finishing on a febrile high, the appreciative audience was rewarded with a built-in encore, Variations On Carnival of Venice. Repin was the troubadour, crafting an arsenal of nifty tricks on his instrument accompanied by pizzicato strings, before walking off the stage as if saying, "Till the next time."