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No. 5, April 2000
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Maxim Vengerov. Photo copyright: Teldec.
Maxim Vengerov
Vagram Saradjian, Vag Papian
concert review: Tonhalle Zurich, March 12, 2000
biography, biographies
 

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Maxim Vengerov was born in the Western Siberian capital of Novosibirsk in 1974. He started playing the violin at the tender age of four and a half. Already half a year later, he gave his first public concert. His first professional teacher was Galina Turtchaninova. She said about him that he is the type of child that is born once a century. Besides his talent, Vengerov brought with him the absolute will to work hard. Aged seven, he went with his teacher to Moscow. At the age of ten he won First Prize in the Junior Wieniawski Competition in Poland. When Zakhar Bron came from Moscow to Novosibirsk, his mother sent him to this famous teacher. The Russian violin educationalist took Vengerov with him to the Musikhochschule Lübeck in Germany. Vengerov started giving regular recitals in Moscow and Leningrad and made his debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam (in the summer of 1989) and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. In July 1990 Vengerov achieved his definitive international breakthrough as he won First Prize at the Carl Flesch International Violin Competition and also won a special prize for interpretation and the "audience prize." During the autumn of 1990, the violinist moved from the former U.S.S.R. to Tel Aviv, and now lives in Amsterdam. When Vengerov performed at the Schleswig-Holstein-Festival in Germany - together with another wonderchild, the pianist Yevgeni Kissin, Marianne Käch of Teldec Classics was so impressed that she wanted to sign him up immediately. According to his former teacher Turtschaninova, at the age of 16, Vengerov actually did not need a teacher anymore. He just learned from working with other artists. Among them was Mstislaw Rostropowitsch with whom he recorded the violin concerts of  Prokoviev and Shostakovich, another milestone in his artistic development. Four years ago, Vengerov started working together with conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim, the second important influence on him in recent years besides Rostropowitsch. Vengerov belongs to the expressive school of Russian violinists and, as a generalist, his repertoire ranges from Bach to Shostakovitch.
 
Maxim Vengerov plays the Stradivarius "ex-Kiesewetter" (1723) on extended loan from Clement Arrison through the Stradivari Society Inc. of Chicago. In July of 1997 Vengerov became the first classical musician to be appointed an Honorary Envoy for Music by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since his appointment, he has visited Bosnia, Croatia and Uganda to meet, perform for, work with and encourage children in war-ravaged parts of the world.
 
The impressive list of awards won by Maxim Vengerov: 1999 March Gramophone Editor's Choice Brahms Concerto/Barenboim 0630-17144-2; 1998 Best Music Video at Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival Promovideo "Meditation from Thais"; 1998 Edison Award Best Concerto Recording for Shostakovich/Prokoviev Violin Concertos II (0630-13150-2); 1997 Echo Klassik Award as Best Instrumentalist for Sibelius/Nielsen Violin Concertos (0630-13161-2); Amadeus Prize Best Recording 1996 for Tchaikovsky/Glazunov Violin Concerto (4509-90881-2); 1996 Edison Award Best Concert Recording Tchaikovsky/Glazunov Violin Concertos (4509-90881-2); Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque for Tchaikovsky/Glazunov Violin Concertos (4509-90881-2); Victoires de la Musique: Best foreign Recording of the Year for Tchaikovsky/Glazunov Violin Concertos (4509-90881-2); 1995 Gramophone Award: Record of the Year for Shostakovich/Prokoviev Violin Concertos (4509-92256-2); Gramophone Award Concerto Recording for Shostakovich/Prokoviev Violin Concertos (4509-92256-2); Siena Prize of the Accademia Musicale Chigiana; 1994 Gramophone Award - Young Artist of the Year; Ritmo Magazine - Artist of the Year; Edison Award - Best Concert Recording for Shostakovich/Prokofiev Violin Concertos (4509-92256-2); Diapason d'Or L'Année for Bruch/Mendelssohn Violin Concertos (4509-90875-2); Diapason d'Or des Lecteures for Bruch/Mendelssohn Violin Concertos (4509-90875-2); RTL d'Or for Bruch/Mendelssohn Violin Concertos (4509-90875-2); Grand Prix Des Discophiles for Bruch/Mendelssohn Violin Concertos (4509-90875-2).
 
The cellist Vagram Saradjian was born in Eriwan, Armenia. He gave his first recital at the age of nine and won the First Prize at the Russian National Competition nine years later. His international recognition came when he won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1970 and of the International Cello Competition in Geneva in 1975. At the age of eight, Saradjan had been compared to Mstislav Rostropovitch, who had been his teacher at the Conservatory in Moscow and with whom he had given his orchestral debut in Kiev in 1969. For years, Vagram Saradjian has dedicated himself to contemporary music and given the first performance of works by Giya Kancheli and was the first to record works by Ilya Zelenka. Vagram Saradjian teaches at the Aaron Copland School of Music and at the Purchase Conservatory. He plays a Montegazza-Cello from Milan, built in the year 1791.
 
The pianist Vag Papian began his career after winning the International Viana de Montana-Competition in Lisbon in 1979. Three years later he began to study conducting at the Conservatory of St. Petersburg. In 1984 he became assistant to Valery Gerghiev at the Armenian Symphony Orchestra and, three years later, he took over the orchestra's direction. In 1990 he emigrated to Israel where he holds the post of artistic director of the Israel Camerata and teaches conducting and piano at the University of Tel Aviv. He also teaches at the Armenian National Academy. Vag Papian regularily accompanies Maxim Vengerov in duo-recitals.
 
The concert of the Maxim Vengerov Trio at the Tonhalle Zurich, March 12, 2000
 
The three musicians began the evening with the Trio No. 2 in e-minor op. 67 by Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-75) composed in the year 1944 in the memory of his friend, the musicologist Iwan Sollertinsky (1902-1944). Shostakovich's piece is of such a clarity and transparency that even non-informed listeners immediately understand what it is all about. The violin playing by Maxim Vengerov was outstanding, expressive and passionate. Vengerov has a tendency to exaggerate his gestures, but he always convinces on the purely musical level. Shostakovich's op. 67 begins with a mourning and leads the listener through all the emotional stages. In contrast to the Allegro con brio it is followed by a dark Largo. In the end, attacca: Allegretto even offers some comic elements in the interplay between violin and cello, supported by the piano. Grotesque-ironic, mourning, dramatic, desperate, dissonant and conciliating, rebellious and resigned sounds alternate. Vengerov, Saradjian and Papian interpreted the death-fight in all its facets - only the cello remained pale.
 
In the second part of the concert, the trio offered another piece "in the memory of a great artist": Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky's (1840-93) Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in a-minor op. 50, composed in 1881/82 in the memory of Nikolai Rubinstein who had always encouraged and supported him. The contrast of the two compositions could not be greater. In contrast to Shostakowich, Tchaikovsky offers no drama, no tragedy, no fight against death. It is said of Tchaikovsky that he had a great fear of death, that the words "coffin", "grave" and "funeral" were not allowed to be pronounced in his presence. His opus 50 pays tribute to those facts. If one did not know that the trio was written "in memoriam", one would not know it, except for the triads in A-minor in the beginning and at the end, bringing in a death-march rhythm. The music critic Eduard Hanslick wrote about Tchaikovsky's composition that "late, very late, the composer realized that he had completely forgotten the mourning." The trio came alive with the rapturous, luxuriant play of Maxim Vengerov who moves like a fish in the water in this romantic piece. It was also evident that the pianist Vag Papian and Vengerov are used to playing together, whereas the cello remained pale again.
 
As an Encore, the three musicians offered Rachmaninov's Vocalise. Here, for the first time, Vagram Saradjian showed that his presence in the trio was no accident. He blossomed. From close range, his change in posture and play was striking: suddenly he completely gave himself up to the emotions, his gestures and expression were passionate. The cello dominated the Encore and reconciled for his former pale play.
 
Shostakowich's op. 67 had been the highlight of the evening - one wishes there was a recording of the piece by the three musicians. The Vengerov Trio should have played it in the end since it is emotionally much more engaging than Tchaikovsky's op. 50. But since the romantic play still has the favours of the public, it made sense to put Tchaikovsky in the second part. Anyhow, the concert was a success.
 
CDs added on April 8, 2001:


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www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 5, April 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  Advertise  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.