César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A major is so familiar it risks being a crocked warhorse, but in the deft young hands of Hyeyoon Park and Benjamin Grosvenor the work’s candid lyricism sounded newly minted. The artists’ approach in this, the latest in the Wigmore Hall’s sequence of lunchtime recitals to an empty hall (broadcast like the others on BBC Radio 3), was to freewheel through its demands and avoid any temptation to deaden it with heft. The pair played the composer’s ornate melodies with love rather than reverence, an approach in which even Park’s occasional blips seemed at home.

Hyeyoon Park and Benjamin Grosvenor © Wigmore Hall
Hyeyoon Park and Benjamin Grosvenor
© Wigmore Hall

The opening Allegretto ben moderato felt light and airy, with a hint of flexibility in the tempo, following which Franck’s second movement galloped into view with Grosvenor gulping down the melodic detail in a frenzy of excitement before buckling in for a fast ride that found both musicians on exhilarating form. Even the third movement, which in the wrong hands can sound like a doodle, benefited from Park and Grosvenor’s careful shaping of the music’s restless unthreading and made way naturally for their energised account of the bustling finale.

The recital had opened with a taut performance of Myths, Szymanowski’s triptych of loosely structured fantasies that wander through mysterious musical terrain, from dramatically spikiness and bitter chill into heady landscapes of perfumed music. Each movement (or Poem) has its heading, so a roadmap was at hand.

Hyeyoon Park and Benjamin Grosvenor © Wigmore Hall
Hyeyoon Park and Benjamin Grosvenor
© Wigmore Hall

Park revelled in the romanticism of La Fontaine d'Aréthuse as her instrument depicted the nymph Arethusa escaping the advances of the god Alpheius before being turned into a spring by Artemis. The spectral lengths of Szymanowski’s hypnotic figures were almost Bacchanalian at first, until watery descents and shimmering reflections over spare piano lines evoked the spirit of Ravel. In Narcisse, Grosvenor’s piano part rocked dreamily on its haunches while Park’s violin gazed in rapture at its own reflection. It’s a long movement but the music’s thread never broke. Thence to Dryades et Pan, in which the lascivious god chases wood nymphs (disguised, apparently, as a flight of bees). The finale’s descriptive introduction heralded a whirlwind of impressionistic sounds in which Park’s violin imitated Pan’s pipes via nifty harmonics, dryads scuttled away under Grosvenor’s fingers and, in a welter of trills and chromatic tunes, pure music triumphed on its own terms.

After two substantial courses, a delicate bouchée closed the hour. Schumann’s Abendlied (originally composed for two pianos but transcribed for violin and piano by Leopold Auer) was a tribute to the strength of Park and Grosvenor’s musical partnership; they shared its gentle romance with control, eloquence and a loving interlace of violin and piano that could hardly be bettered.

This concert was reviewed from the live stream.

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