A Brancusian sound sculpture – recital by Erzhan Kulibaev and Daniel del Pino at the 2018 Enescu Competition 2018
Sunday, September 16th 2018, during the George Enescu International Competition at the Romanian Athenaeum Hall, we listened to a recital by two exceptional performers: the violin player Erzhan Kulibaev, an awardee of the 2016 George Enescu International Competition, and the piano player Daniel del Pino. The two musicians presented a robust repertoire, made up of masterpieces of the universal violin literature: Fantasie for violin and piano in C major D. 934 by Franz Schubert, Sonata for Solo Violin by Béla Bartók, Sz. 117 BB 24, and Violin and Piano Sonata no. 3 op. 25 by George Enescu, in «Romanian folk character».
In the recital’s opening, the audience listened to Fantasie for violin and piano in C major by Franz Schubert, a posthumous work of 1827 dedicated to the Czech violonist Josef Slavik and the pianist Carl Maria von Bocklet. This Fantasie is considered as very difficult from a technical perspective (more demanding for the pianist than all Rachmaninov’s concerts combined).
The performances of Erzhan Kulibaev and Daniel del Pino conveyed an excellent balance between fast sections with highly technical parts and poetic episodes. The Fantasie debuted with a long and clear sound, played by the violinist, suggesting the parting of upstream and downstream waters at the time of Creation. The sound became progressively colourful, the violin vibrations naturally blended with consonant harmonies uttered by the trembling accords of the piano. I was admiring the steady oscillations of the violinist’s left hand, which fluently connected the sounds from one interval to another. The violin would take over the progressive upward pace of the piano and maintaining the same colour spectrum, resulting in an authentic osmosis of the sounds. Even the dialogue moments emerged as a tender whisper transcending any conceptual conflict. The violinist Erzhan Kulibaev plays with ease, floats over very difficult parts with a smile, enjoying each surprise of the Schubertian deeps: fortepiano, subito pianissimo. It all sounded like more instruments into one. This illusion was due to a very good pedalization technique of the pianist Daniel del Pino. I was enjoying the wailing of the violin, where Kulibaev’s bow seemed to breathe love into the chords, displaying a suppleness of moves to generate particularly crafted sounds: a velvety approach followed by a noble, constant push far exceeding one passing of the bow, up to a climax highlighted by well thought measuring, while phrase ends were brought by a flawless fine-tuning of the sound.
From a merry chirp, the violinist smoothly engages on a downspiralling trend which unites with the murmuring of the piano. Unbelievably how the violin spiccato and the piano staccato achieve the same consistent tone! They exceeded the instrumental technique. All became pure music! I was noticing the times when the melodic flow would change its way just like the retreating sea.
These were followed by a Sonata for Solo Violin by Béla Bartók, a work composed in 1943. It was ordered and played in first audition by Yehudi Menuhin in 1944. It is a highly complex opus, filled with musical innuendos which require thinking effort and a particular performing will along its four parts: I. Tempo di ciaccona; II. Fuga. Risoluto non troppo vivo; III. Melodia. Adagio and IV. Presto.
I was listening to this formidable violinist performing solo, but paradoxically made hear an entire quartet of chords. Of course, the genius of Bartók’s polyphony does create this feeling, but also does Kulibaev’s sculptural performance, where independent voices with different tones had a major contribution to this feeling. Sometimes I would feel a sound continuity and a result similar to that of a wind instrument, where the air column felt like being supported by a seemingly never-ending breath. Then, accords in reverse from high to low, sharply discontinued, generated a smooth, perfectly polished sound density. Transcendentally difficult parts including parallel sixths, double chords and ascending colour stages, combinations of arco and pizzicato, glissando, parts with deep bounces and submersions from high to low, all performed with overwhelming virtuosity. All the dissonances provided a strange scenery, but devoid of any sense of flashiness. Kulibaev masters the architecture of sequences, with his mastery highlighted by the meaning given to each event bringing tensional build-up. And the beauty of the whining chant in third movement, reminding of a mother weeping for her son! The flageolets were leading towards a sea-like world, but so much different than that of impressionist music. Dark and dense water shapes emerged there. Nothing transparent, no trace of pastel colours. Then we start noticing some rhythmic formulas reminiscent of Hungarian folk music.
After the intermission, the two performers played the Piano Sonata no. 3 op. 25 by George Enescu, in «Romanian folk character». Beyond the rich symbolism of the Enescian composition, the musicians inferred the archetypes of nostalgia and of the Myoritic space, which Enescu loved with passion and always yearned for. All those intonation inflexions, microtonal scales, variants of bow passes reminding of folk music (alla punta del arco), those whispers of fairytale beginnings (once upon a time), were also found in the rewording of interpreters. I was watching the violinist, but I was always aware that was a sonata written for piano and violin. Enescu loved the violin, but loved heterophony even more. In the second part of the Sonata, the flageolets of the violin juxtaposed the sounds of the piano, which reminded of a semantron with a calm, rhythmical, long practised sound. The wind blowing effects (emisie sul ponticello) introduced a picture of the Impressions d’Enfance suite, imitations of bird songs, muffled cries and a multitude of feelings succeeded each other in the chant of these wonderful performers of Enescu’s music. And those striking peaks at the end of the Sonata! The piano, at its lowest, filled the Athenaeum like an orchestral tutti.
Longs applause and bravos were heard with the subsidence of the last accord of this Enescian masterpiece.
At the audience’s request, the two performers played Romanian Dances by Béla Bartók. In each miniature of this widely known work, they conveyed with much authenticity the ethos of Romanian folk music: Bat game – filled with energy, the Waistband – filled with happiness, On the spot – slow, with a whiff of bagpipes, Buciumeanca – filled with grace, Romanian Poarga – quick and lively, and the last one, the Tiny Man – imagining a fast-paced dance. Erzhan Kulibaev also added a highly virtuoso cadenza, a preview of the last dance’s theme, displaying a technique beyond what is humanly possible. And the accompaniment of the Lebanese pianist, Daniel del Pino, perfectly imitate an taraf assembly whose verve simply fill the audience with its unbeatable rhythm. Endless applause and ovations rewarded the two performers.
A memorable musical evening for the audience at the Romanian Athenaeum, in one of the most beautiful extraordinary recitals at the 2018 George Enescu International Festival.