Barber; Beethoven; Tchaikovsky Chamber Works
A towering performance of the Kreutzer Sonata; I couldn’t resist the temptation to repeat the experience immediately. Performance is the operative word – with Shumsky and Wild ‘living’ the unfolding musical events as they present them to an enthusiastic and rather noisy audience. Both outer movements are taken at a true presto, and the lyrical intensity of Shumsky’s projection of the second theme stems, in part, at least, from the minimal slackening of the basic tempo. The first movement has an extremely passionate character, Shumsky and Wild making Beethoven’s sforzandi and fortissimi speak in a vividly expressive way. The power of the playing is tempered by Shumsky’s fine tonal control and by the magnificent balance of Wild’s chord playing. The grumpiest of Beethoven’s closely spaced left-hand chords sound clear and resonant. In the Andante, the variations take over from one another to create an impressive, cumulative effect, and the finale has an infectiously unbuttoned spirit.
Perhaps inevitably, the rest comes as an anti-climax. Barber’s youthful but highly characteristic and dramatic Sonata is very well done, however, the 19-year-old Charles Curtis rising impressively to the challenge of partnering Wild. In the Tchaikovsky the recorded balance isn’t always satisfactory – I suspect the engineers changed the levels during the performance. There are also some strange glitches in the sound at the end of track 2, just before the finale. Despite many wonderful moments – Wild’s superb, magical playing of the Mazurka variation is one example – the account doesn’t quite have the sustained inspiration of the Beethoven. But it’s still magnificent playing, in the grand manner.