Aldeburgh Festival: Thomas Zehetmair

Thomas Zehetmair, Snape Maltings, June 13

Aldeburgh Festival Review, Thomas Zehetmair, Snape Maltings, June 13

Virtuoso violinist, chamber music performer and conductor, Thomas Zehetmair's versatility will be demonstrated in each of these roles at this year's Festival, though I doubt if we will witness a more remarkable display of his abilities than that witnessed at this solo recital.

A mere fraction of the programme might be considered taxing enough, but to perform sonatas by Ysaye and Berio, plus all the 24 Paganini caprices was an incomparable display of sheer virtuosity, not to mention memory and stamina.

Eugene Ysaye was the most famous violinist of the late 19th century Franco-Belgium school, whose only compositions for the violin contain more than mere technical virtuosity. In the fifth of his six solo sonatas Zehetmair's firm tone and wide dynamic range captured the spirit of the Danse Rustique perfectly, though not quite the lyrical beauty of the opening movement's magical evocation of the dawn. The more austere music of Berio's Sequenza XIII with its wide range of colour, from the harsh opening repeated A's, to the barely audible passagework at the extreme high range of the violin provided Zehetmair with a more satisfactory vehicle.


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The Paganini caprices, executed with perfect bow technique and impeccable intonation, were dazzling, yet ultimately unsatisfactory. Written as studies, which extended the range of violin technique, their musical content doesn't really justify placing the whole 24 in one recital. The murmurs of appreciation of hearing the famous theme of the last one were perhaps as much an expression of relief, despite Zehetmair's Herculean achievement.

Frank Cliff

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