St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Chamber Music Concert
Viktoria Mullova (violin)
Katia Labèque (piano)
Stravinsky. Bartók. Schubert. Ravel

The programme includes:

Igor Stravinsky. Suite Italienne (transcribed in 1933 for violin and piano by Stravinsky and Samuel Dushkin from ballet Pulcinella)
Béla Bartók. Hungarian Folk Tunes (for Violin & Piano arr. Joseph Szigeti)
Franz Schubert. Fantasy for violin and piano in C major, D934
Maurice Ravel. Sonata for violin and piano


Viktoria Mullova and Katia Labèque

Viktoria Mullova (the biography) >>

Katia Labèque (the biography) >>

Viktoria Mullova and Katia Labèque seem to be all the culture industry desires: young, attractive, incredibly talented...Their programme at Dublin's National Concert Hall, highlight why they are amongst the most sought after musicians in the industry.
Schubert's Fantasy in C major...I found this piece to be the most modern-sounding and engaging of the concert, a point in fact of the architecture of the programme. Once more, the execution of this piece was faultless...
Seán Clancy.

She strolled on stage with calm confidence and easy poise, and once the fiddle hit the chin, she was all business. Her avoidance of interpretive perfume or musical aerobics could be misread as emotional distance, but nothing could be further from the truth. Mullova may be the most elegant, refined and sweetly expressive violinist on the planet.
Hugh Canning. Sunday Times

Mullova's performance was everything that the best period music-making is about - quick-witted, alert, alive to every detail in the score. There was one passage in the slow movement that showed what a soloist of her stature can forge with period tools: for a minute or two the violin part seemed to hang motionless in the air, as pure and eloquent as a nightingale's song.
Richard Fairman. BBC Music Magazine

This was one of those rare, fantastic evenings that almost beggar description... To hear Mullova play Bach is, simply, one of the greatest things you can experience... technically Mullova was simply staggering...
Tim Ashley, The Guardian


The Italian Suite from the ballet Pulcinella, written by Stravinsky in 1925, is an extraordinarily well-balanced work. This organic composition of episodes of the "sunniest" ballet that was to become the forerunner of Stravinsky's neoclassicism recreates the nature of Italian carnivals with their traditional masked commedia dell' arte performances. The protagonist of these al fresco street shows is the red-nosed Pulcinella, a magical figure combining features of Petrouchka and Don Giovanni. He oozes merriment - and at the same time he is melancholic, immersing himself in philosophical debate - and falls into reverie. The list of his amorous conquests could well rival that of the renowned Don Giovanni. Infuriated rivals made short work of him on several occasions, but Pulcinella never fails to rise again. The roguish adventures of this legendary character formed the basis for the ballet, and the atmosphere was assisted by the music of Pergolesi, a young composer of the early 18th century hailed as "Italy's Mozart", and other great men of the age whose unknown works were found and presented to Stravinsky by Sergei Diaghilev, friend, impresario and the inspiration for many inspired artistes of the time.

Hungarian Folk Songs, written by Bartуk for piano, took on a second life thanks to the concerto ensemble version of the composer's close friend, violinist Joseph Szigeti. Bartуk, whose art opened up new horizons in music and had a huge influence on 20th century composers, was a great researcher and expert on the folklore of Hungary and other nations (along with his countryman Zoltan Kodai). He spent several years of his life on ethnographic expeditions, travelling to distant regions, as yet untouched by western civilisation, and making phonograph recordings of ancient chants that lived on through the oral tradition. His book Hungarian Song (1924), translated into numerous languages, was to form a classical piece of research into folk music. Unlike his predecessors, Bartуk did not aim to force the laws of "professional" European music onto folklore. A deep involvement in the nature of folk art and a serious and tender regard for it was typical for him. It is just such an approach that is shown by the numerous collections of works by Bartуk, based on materials from songs of various nations.

Franz Schubert's Fantasia in C Major for Violin and Piano was written for the young virtuoso violinist Joseph Slavik, whom contemporaries referred to as "Bohemia's Paganini". Despite the vivid nature of the music, the premiere of the work, which took place in early 1828, was no great success with either the public or the critics. In reality, the free structure of the composition, each section flowing continuously from the last without interruption, heralded Liszt's poem form and was unusual and complex to the larger part of audiences. In time, however, the work came to be seen in a just light, and now we can only wonder that it was once perceived as an incomprehensible jumble of sounds.
The first part of the Fantasia consists of two sections: slow (performing the function of an introduction), and fast dance, in the Hungarian fashion, which once again brings Liszt to mind, albeit with regard to his rhapsodies. However, the introductory section is typically "Schubertian", based on the long drawn-out melody of a song. For the second movement, written in the form of variations, the composer used the theme of his song Sei mir gegrьsst! (to words by Rьckert), exposing a great similarity to the "Turkish rondo" of the first movement of Mozart's famous Sonata in A Major. Then the first movement is repeated in an altered style, and fleetingly - like a reflection - there comes the theme of the second movement, and the festive culmination of the Fantasia reaches truly symphonic levels.

Maurice Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major is founded on the tradition of the three-part 18th century sonata, where the outer, animated sections (the latter being faster) frame an instrumental aria, but at the same time tear down these traditions in accordance with the composer's well thought-out plan. The underscored independence of the violin and piano parts (including their being written down in various tonalities) transforms the ensemble partners into competing rivals.
The lyricism of the first section is an example of Ravel's refinement and delicate composition. This is music of "new simplicity" where there is nothing superfluous. In the movement of pure and clear melodic lines, only occasionally are there grotesque piano retorts that for a moment dispel the severity of the atmosphere. The second section is blues, used for the first time here in chamber music. Ravel never missed a chance to listen to good jazz, and he made a brilliant study of the specific nature of the genre. The influence of the jazz improvisation style also appears in the numerous characteristic "orchestral" effects of blues - glides in intonation typical of Negro violinists in manner, the imitation of specific techniques in trumpet, saxophone and trombone playing. The closing section of the Sonata - Perpetuum mobile - comes with the composer's instructions to play "as quickly as possible". The supremacy of the virtuoso violin part draws it close to the concerto-like finale and once again confirms that with Ravel the classical system is filled with unexpectedness.
Nadezhda Kulygina


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