Superstars Vengerov and Trpceski follow in the footsteps of Lang Lang with a sold out Barbican hall of doting admirers. Mozart, Prokofiev, Franck and Ravel on the digital programme menu. But it was the blues from the Ravel Sonata played as an encore that ignited the evening and sparks began to fly. Vengerov, the Pavarotti of the violin, seduced and ravished our senses with Liebesleid and Liebesfreud and had not only the audience cheering but also his ever attentive partner clapping this magician from Novosibirsk.

Maxim Vengerov (violin) and Simon Trpčeski (piano). Photo credit: Mark Allan/Barbican

I remember a young boy making his debut in Italy in the Ghione Theatre in Rome. Promoted by Carrena of Italconcert that was the official agency for promoting Russian artists and culture at that time – a few years before they tore down the wall in Berlin. Vadim Repin followed by Natalia Prishipienko both from the school in Siberia of Zakhar Bron. The 18 year old Repin was only interested in driving Carrena’s fast car but we were overwhelmed by his playing. So much so that an impresario from Sicily, Barone Agnello went back stage in the interval to offer him a tour of Sicily before all the others got to him after the concert! Much like the historic arrival of Glenn Gould in Moscow where he started to an empty hall but as word spread like wildfire after the interval the hall was full to the rafters. Carrena spoke of a younger colleague much in the same way that Gilels spoke of the arrival after him of Richter. It was in London that the teenage Maxim Vengerov appeared for the first time in the West, at the Wigmore Hall. One was immediately aware of all the well known violinists being present and when this young boy got to the end of the Waxman Carmen Fantasy we just stood on our chairs and cheered the arrival of a young God. The rest is legend and tonight we were witness to a legend who obviously relishes his success and feeling of being loved as he ensnares his public with music making that envelopes each one of his audiences around the world in a cocoon of mercurial richness.

Maxim Vengerov (violin) and Simon Trpčeski (piano). Photo credit: Mark Allan/Barbican

In Vengerov’s own words the recital was of works all written by people who were inspired by the violin. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played the violin; Sergey Prokofiev wrote for David Oistrakh, one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century; César Franck wrote for Eugène Ysaÿe, regarded as ‘King of the Violin’ in his time; and Maurice Ravel was inspired by Jelly d’Arányi. The whole programme is about the love of the violin felt by four of the greatest composers of different epochs. It would be wrong to call it a violin recital as Vengerov explains: ‘In the great violin sonatas, the piano always leads, because it provides the harmonic and rhythmic foundations. That’s how the violin finds its freedom, submitting itself to this magnificent instrument, which has so many colours and facets. As a violinist you have to understand the harmonies and have at least one ear in your partner’s score, matching their colouring. It’s always exciting to collaborate with a soloist who also plays chamber music, so it’s exciting to see where he will lead me!’

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Violin Sonata No 21 in E minorK 304/300c 1. Allegro 2. Tempo di Menuetto

This is Mozart’s only violin and piano sonata to be written in a minor key, which is probably because it was written in 1778 while Mozart was in Paris and the year Mozart’s mother died. It is in fact the only instrumental work by Mozart in E minor and obviously reflects the mood that Mozart was in at that time. The A minor piano sonata K 310 is from the same period too. There was such mystery and melancholy to the opening statement on the violin as there was disarming simplicity from the piano in the Tempo di Menuetto. Vengerov was much more inside the very soul of Mozart with his vibrant robust playing on a true operatic scale. Trpceski was on the outside looking in with his exquisite bell like cantabile and very polite staccato in the style of a Haebler not a Fischer. I missed the weight that Vengerov gave to every note and in consequence it was an exquisitely polite and respectful performance rather than profound and heart searching.

Maxim Vengerov (violin) and Simon Trpčeski (piano). Photo credit: Mark Allan/Barbican

Sergei Prokofiev Sonata No 1 in F minor 1. Andante assai 2. Allegro brusco 3. Andante 4. Allegrissimo – Andante assai, come prima

The sonata was written for David Oistrakh (1908–1974), who performed it first in 1946, and played two movements at Prokofiev’s funeral in 1953. Vengerov describes the work: ‘It’s one of his most dramatic pieces, filled with different colours. There’s a passage at the end of the last moment that Prokofiev described as the wind in the graveyards – the most chilling colouring that the violin can produce. It shows his imagination and is one of the greatest sonatas ever written for violin and piano. It was here that the two partners found common ground as the extraordinary colours that Vengerov found on the violin were matched by a kaleidoscope of colours from the keyboard. Bass notes that sent a shiver down one’s spine as Vengerov barely touched the strings as he created an icy wind of transcendental scales that seemed like glissandi. Driving rhythmic energy and such amazing clarity too in a duo of quite extraordinary vision and power.

César Franck Violin Sonata 1. Allegretto ben moderato 2. Allegro 3. Ben moderato: Recitativo-Fantasia 4. Allegretto poco mosso

The Violin Sonata of César Franck (1822–1890) is one of his best-known works, written for the wedding of Eugène Ysaÿe (1858–1931), master of the Franco-Belgian school of violin playing. Franck was not present when Ysaÿe married, but on the morning of the wedding, on 26 September 1886 in Arlon, their mutual friend Charles Bordes presented the work as Franck’s gift to Ysaÿe and his bride Louise Bourdeau de Courtrai. After a hurried rehearsal, Ysaÿe and Bordes’ sister-in-law, the pianist Marie-Léontine Bordes – Pène played the Sonata to the other wedding guests. It was given its first public concert performance on 16 December of that year, at the Museum of Modern Painting in Brussels. Ysaÿe and Bordes-Pène were again the performers. The Sonata was the final item in a long programme which started at 3 pm. When the time arrived for the Sonata, dusk had fallen and the gallery was bathed in gloom, but the museum authorities permitted no artificial light whatsoever. Initially, it seemed the Sonata would have to be abandoned, but Ysaÿe and Bordes-Pène decided to continue regardless. They had to play the last three movements from memory in virtual darkness. When the violinist Armand Parent remarked that Ysaÿe had played the first movement faster than the composer intended, Franck replied that Ysaÿe had made the right decision, saying “from now on there will be no other way to play it”. Vincent d’Indy who was present, recorded these details of the event.

Vengerov says: ‘The Franck rhymes very well with the colours of Prokofiev. Ysaÿe possessed an amazing sound and a way of colouring the instrument, which we can hear in his recordings. The Franck is like a painting, full of images’. The Sonata is further notable for the difficulty of its piano part, when compared with most of the chamber repertoire. Its technical problems include frequent extreme extended figures—the composer himself having possessed huge hands—and virtuoso runs and leaps, particularly in the second movement. Some ravishing playing of great power and delicacy. The second movement like a tidal wave of sounds from the piano enveloping the passionate outpouring of Vengerov ‘s magnificent Strad. A recitativo of sublime power and emotion was followed by the same simplicity in the last movement as in the little minuet by Mozart. This time though developed into a tumultuous climax and a funambulistic finale of transcendental playing from both.

Ravel’s Tzigane (a French word for a generic gypsy style), dedicated to the Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi (1893–1966). Vengerov says: ‘The Tzigane is the cherry on the cake. Every time I play it, I discover something new. Ravel’s music is as difficult as Mozart because it’s so transparent. There’s a borderline and if you overstep that line, it becomes vulgar. It can easily be misinterpreted and played too rhapsodically. You can’t just play it like you want, though. It has a structure – it’s a serious work.’ Jelly d’Aranyi was born in Budapest and was the great-niece of Joseph Joachim -great friend of Brahms and sister of the violinist Adila Fachiri. Bartok’s two sonatas for violin and piano were dedicated to her; Jelly and Bartók presented them in London in March 1922 (No. 1) and May 1923 (No. 2). She played a curious role in the emergence and 1937 world premiere of Schumann’s Violin Concerto. On the basis of messages she received at a 1933 séance, allegedly from Schumann himself, about this concerto of which she had never previously heard, she claimed the right to perform it publicly for the first time. That was not to be, but she did perform it at the London premiere. She retired with her sister and Swedish companion to the little village of Ewelme near Oxford that by coincidence is where Vlado Perlemuter mentored by Ravel chose to retire with his lifelong companion too. A wonderful performance where the clarity and precision of Trpcewski were just jewels that sparkled and shone so brightly as Vengerov weaved his demonic way through Ravel’s treacherously fantasmagoric score.

A standing ovation was awarded the blues movement from Ravel’s Sonata for violin and piano played with insinuating sounds of sublime improvised decadence. At last the sparks were flying high as Vengerov knew what his public wanted and with all the generosity and showmanship of a Pavarotti proceeded to ravish and seduce everyone of his audience who were hanging onto every velvet sound that poured from his heart via his violin into ours.

Maxim Vengerov is universally hailed as one of the world’s finest musicians, and often referred to as the greatest living string player in the world today, Grammy award winner Maxim Vengerov also enjoys international acclaim as a conductor and is one of the most in-demand   in 1974, he began his career as a solo violinist at the age of five, won the Wieniawski and Carl Flesch international competitions at ages 10 and 15 respectively, studied with Galina Tourchaninova and Zakhar Bron, made his first recording at the age of 10, and went on to record extensively for high-profile labels including Melodia, Teldec and EMI, earning among others, Grammy and Gramophone artist of the year awards. In 2007 he followed in the footsteps of his mentor, the late Mstislav Rostropovich, and turned his attention to conducting and in 2010 was appointed the first chief conductor of the Gstaad Festival Orchestra. He plays the ex-Kreutzer Stradivari (1727).

Simon Trpčeski has been praised not only for his powerful virtuosity and deeply expressive approach, but also for his charismatic stage presence. Born in Macedonia in 1979, Simon Trpčeski is a graduate of the School of Music at the University of St. Cyril and St. Methodius in Skopje, where he studied with Boris Romanov. He was BBC New Generation Artist 2001-2003 and in 2003, was honoured with the Young Artist Award by the Royal Philharmonic Society. Launched onto the international scene twenty years ago as a BBC New-Generation Artist, in an incredibly fast-paced career that encompass no cultural or musical boundaries, Simon Trpčeski has collaborated with over a hundred orchestras on four continents, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, City of Birmingham Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Deutsche Sinfonie Orchester Berlin and Dresden Philharmonic, while In North America, he is a frequent soloist with the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, the Los Angeles and New-York Philharmonic, and the San Francisco, St. Louis, Seattle, and Baltimore Symphonies. Further afield, he has performed with the New Japan, Seoul, and Hong Kong Philharmonics, and the Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, and New Zealand Symphonies.