February 2012

Hadar Rimon: Stuff of Legend

February 6, 2012 05:54

Hadar Rimon, violin
Natasha Tadson, piano

In Hebrew, “Hadar” means “beautiful”, “ornamented”. As descriptions of Hadar Rimon’s concert performance at the Kala Academy (Goa, India) on 23 January, even these are not flattering enough. In a world where superlatives are resorted to so readily, how does one describe in words what one feels in the presence of something truly outstanding, to the extent it occupies a league all its own?

The slow assured chordal introduction to Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata was the first clue of this young artist’s superb command of her instrument and her musicality. And Tadson’s response also indicated her own formidable presence at her instrument. In the stormy Presto that soon followed, there was concerto-like interplay which made huge demands upon both. From here, through the delightful Andante con variazioni to the final Presto of this monumental work, we heard not only instrumental playing of the highest possible order from both, but also the long-standing intimate camaraderie between this daughter-mother duo, born of long years of making music together.

The Kreutzer alone might have served sufficient for the first half of Rimon’s concert programme, but she returned to deliver an absolutely stunning account of Giuseppe Tartini’s “Devil’s Trill” sonata in G minor. This was allegedly written after the Devil appeared to the composer in a dream and played on his violin for him, and the composition was Tartini’s frantic attempt to write down what had been played. Whether or not one believes the tale, this is even today famous for its Herculean challenges for the violin. Rimon played the devil’s music like an angel! The beguiling rich tone in the introduction, the hairbreadth-perfect intonation, double- and triple-stops played with tight-rope precision, the clean trilling, -- all this played with laser-beam concentration, were an ecstatic delight to grateful ears.

The second half began with Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata for violin and piano no. 2 in D major, op. 94a. This is a flute sonata arranged for the violin at the request of his close friend David Oistrakh, who felt it “ought to live a richer and fuller life on the concert stage”. Extremely generous of Oistrakh who as a teenager was berated by Prokofiev for a “substandard” playing of his violin concerto! George Bernard Shaw who was also a music critic, described this work as a “humorous masterpiece of authentic violin music”. Although the piano part has remained the same, the editing for violin is very little, with some added double-stops and bowing articulation. This “neoclassical” composition was a wonderful showcase for Rimon’s voluptuous violin tone. One could well imagine the flute flourishes in the warm lyrical theme that opened the work. One heard shades of Peter and the Wolf, especially in the cheerful march-like melody in the last movement. Rimon was partnered rather than merely supported by Tadson in this beautifully evocative composition.

The last work could be regarded as a lengthy encore showpiece: an opera fantasy for violin, based on themes from Bizet’s Carmen. The offerings by Sarasate and Waxman are part of the standard violin repertory, but this Carmen: Fantasie brillante, op. 3 no. 3 by Hungarian composer Jenö Hubay certainly is a neglected gem. It is a credit to Bizet and his runaway- successful opera Carmen with its barrelful of catchy tunes and its heady mix of love, drama, and jealousy, that it caught the imagination of so many composers, especially for the violin. This composition begins dramatically with the Fate theme and its portent of doom, and works its way through every violin pyrotechnic device in the book to a barnstorming finale. Particularly noteworthy was the March of the Toreadors picked out at the piano, while Hadar’s violin knitted an intricate tapestry around it, replete with harmonics, multiple-stopping and passagework played at the speed of light.

Tadson’s accompaniment was rock-steady throughout, and despite the absence of a page-turner she skipped neither beat nor note even in works like the Kreutzer with its share of repeats, and the most awkward page-turns as in the Prokofiev.

The ground certainly shifted for us that evening of young Hadar Rimon’s concert. In my thirty-odd years in Goa, I can honestly say I have never heard a violinist of this calibre ever perform here before. This is the stuff of legend, and those who gave her concert a miss are immeasurably the poorer for it.

(This post also appears on my blog. An edited version of this article appeared in the Navhind Times Goa India on 26 January 2012.)

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