AUGUSTIN HADELICH and ROBERT KULEK – Echoes of Paris
STRAVINSKY Suite after Themes, Fragments and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi
DEBUSSY Sonata in G minor
PROKOFIEV Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94b
Augustin Hadelich (violin), Robert Kulek (piano).
At the age of 27, Augustin Hadelich may be well beyond an age at
which the words ‘Young’ and ‘Prodigy’ could seriously be uttered in close proximity, but this is a disc which simply bubbles over with youthful enthusiasm.
The combination of his unabashed high spirits and considerable musical maturity leads to a marvellously life-affirming account of
the Poulenc Sonata, while Prokofiev’s Second comes across with
an endearingly playful character that sets it apart from most other recordings, the delicate flights of fancy in the first movement executed with an almost impertinent nonchalance.
There is something almost childlike, too, about Hadelich’s booklet notes, reading more like a teen’s Facebook page (complete with jokey photograph taken in Paris on the aptly-named Rue des Grands Augustins) than a serious musical commentary. With such naïvely enthusiastic writing, it is easy to overlook the specious thread which links the four works in this recital. Hadelich connects them through the city of Paris, with each of the featured composers having spent some time in the French capital. The fact that the Prokofiev sonata is wholly Muscovite in origin and character – both in its initial manifestation as a Flute Sonata and its subsequent transformation into the splendid violin work we hear here – gets handily ignored.
Not that this matters one iota, for even if nothing at all linked these four works, three of them at least come across with such wonderful freshness and vitality that the performances themselves are ample justification for their inclusion on a single disc. Even the Poulenc slow movement oozes a sentimentality that is more in the nature of a tongue-in-cheek pastiche than the nostalgic reverie so many other violinists project.
The exception is Stravinsky’s Suite after Themes, Fragments and Pieces by Giambattista Pergolesi. While it is played – as is everything here – with astonishing precision, every note and nuance perfectly placed, it nonetheless manages to elude Hadelich’s musical personality.
His desire to avoid what he describes as the “toned-down” dissonances of the more customary arrangement of this music as the Suite Italienne seems to have left him without a clear idea of what the music is trying to say. He mentions that when he plays it he is “reminded of puppets,” but these puppets are very static and often seem to get their strings tangled. Apart from the lovely effects he produces from his instrument, especially his tremendous technical control with an infinitely varied dynamic palette, it all seems terribly aimless to me.
This performance of the Stravinsky does, however, deserve serious consideration for its exposé of the astonishing unity of approach and tautness of ensemble between Hadelich and his pianist, Robert Kulek; the ‘Tarantella’ movement is a dazzling object lesson in perfect ensemble playing.
No reservations at all with the other works here, the Debussy sonata poised, magical and possessed of a luminosity that is both deeply affecting and, at times, utterly magical.