Young violinist and pianist display solid technique

Jonathan Shin.
Jonathan Shin.PHOTO: SSO



RECITAL/with Jonathan Shin, piano


There are so many incredibly talented young violinists studying in conservatories around the world that it is impossible to count them all.

Just witness the Singapore International Violin Competition in January, where margins separating each artist were so fine that the decisions to reward some and eliminate others seemed almost arbitrary. So count oneself lucky to have even heard any of them perform, and the same would apply to young Russian-American violinist Elizabeth Basoff-Darskaia who made her Singapore debut on Sunday.

Her teachers are a Who's Who of the instrument, including Ruggiero Ricci, Aaron Rosand, Pamela Frank and Boris Kuschnir. Perhaps one of them might have advised on her sequence of programming, because it is murder to open a recital cold with Brahms' demanding Violin Sonata No. 3 In D Minor (Op.108). Both performers and listeners have yet to fully warm up, and the results could be half-cooked or disappointing. Thankfully, she has the technique to sustain its four movements with a sweet and somewhat slender tone on the 1745 Carlo Bergonzi violin on loan from the Rin Collection.

The faster outer movements fared best, while the slow movement came across as prosaic, and the playful scherzo on the staid side. By the time of Saint-Saens' Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso, she had fully warmed up and pulled out all stops for a virtuoso display.

For her unaccompanied segment, Paganini's Caprice No. 19 sounded exposed at its fastest bits, where the running notes were a blur.

Much better was the Bach Chaconne In D Minor, which confidently opened the second half with a more fulsome tone, perfect intonation and masterly pacing. This was the work she should have begun her recital with.

What followed was a lovely reading of Mozart's Sonata In B Flat Major (K.454), which displayed sensitivity and utmost sympathy for the Rococo style. Simplicity of form and beauty of lines ruled here.

By now, one would have wondered who the pianist in the recital was. Young Singaporean pianist Jonathan Shin was every bit an equal partner in Mozart, Brahms and Saint-Saens, a solid rock upon which the recital stood. So why was he referred to as just an accompanist and his biography not included?

The recital closed with the Carmen Fantasy by Hungarian violin virtuoso Jeno Hubay, a refreshing departure from the frequently heard Sarasate and Waxman incarnations. This version was more improvisatory, had more showy cadenzas and included the Fate motif, Micaela's Air and Toreador Song before romping home with the scintillating Bohemian Dance.

Both performers received loud cheers and rhythmic applause. As there was no prepared encore, Basoff-Darskaia emerged from the wing sans violin to play Chopin's Etude In F Minor (Op. 25 No. 2) on the piano flawlessly and with teasing rubato. Further cheers brought out Shin and the finale from the Brahms sonata was reprised. This time, it sounded well done and close to perfection.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2015, with the headline 'Violinist and pianist display solid technique'. Print Edition | Subscribe