Review from the Ottawa recital with Martin Chalifour

Here is a review from last week’s recital at the Music and Beyond festival in Ottawa, Canada, with violinist Martin Chalifour:

“Day 3 of Music and Beyond wrapped up with a recital by Montreal violinist Martin Chalifour, who has spent the past 20 years living the Hollywood dream as concertmaster of the L.A. Philharmonic.

Playing a 1711 Stradivarius formerly played by Fritz Kreisler — one of three owned by the L.A. Phil — Chalifour was joined by the Belgian pianist Steven Vanhauwaert. Vanhauwaert, who has also established himself in Southern California, has serious chops, a commanding, lush tone, and was in every way Chalifour’s full partner.

Chalifour’s sound is huge but never harsh, with elegant, focused vibrato and an exceptionally expressive, soft bow arm. His virile yet debonair playing makes the most of the Stradivarius’s distinctive, smoked caramel voice.

Mozart’s two-movement G Major Sonata was all sunbeams and Rococo playfulness. Chalifour’s approach to Mozart is thicker-boned, even a little romantic, with old-school but judicious use of rubato and portamento.

If the Mozart was a sweet amuse-bouche, Beethoven’s C Minor Sonata was the T-bone steak dinner, substantial and sustaining. Vanhauwaert is an extraordinarily compelling Beethoven interpreter, with a master-builder’s sense of architecture and an innate flair for dramatic and narrative tension. It would be worthwhile to hear him in a solo recital of late piano sonatas.

The opening movement crackled with restless, electric energy, while the Adagio was meted out patiently, drop by careful drop, emotions rippling elusively over the surface. The Scherzo had bite, like someone smiling through gritted teeth. The pair became ever so slightly disunited in the finale, which they took at Grand Prix speed. But the seat-of-their-pants performance just kissed the edge without tripping over it.

The highlight of the evening was Fauré’s exquisite A Major Sonata, played with soaring verve and creamy phrasing. Both musicians are perfectly chez eux in this late-Romantic French repertoire, giving it polished worldliness and heady, rose garden sensuality…”



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