David Nebel, Dorukhan Doruk, Oliver Schnyder
Beethoven: Violin Sonata op.24, Cello Sonata op.102/2, Piano Trio op.11

Druckerei, Baden, 2020-11-07

3.5-star rating

2020-11-11 — Original posting



Table of contents


Introduction

Venue, Date & TimeDruckerei, Baden, 2020-11-07 16:00
Series / TitleOrpheum Foundation — 30th Anniversary Concert
OrganizerOrpheum Foundation for the Advancement of Young Artists /
Goldmann PR
Main SponsorZur Rose Group
Reviews from related eventsEarlier Concerts organized by the Orpheum Foundation
Earlier Concerts in this venue
Concerts featuring Oliver Schnyder
Howard Griffiths, Orpheum Foundation @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)
Howard Griffiths, Artistic Director, Orpheum Foundation @ Baden, 2020-11-07
(© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)

The plan for the 30th anniversary of the Orpheum Foundation for the Support of Young Artists called for a celebration concert in Zurich’s Tonhalle Maag. However, the pandemic disrupted these plans. It was clear that the concert would be subject to restrictions (physical distancing, no apéro, no intermission, small audience), and the pandemic also caused the organizers not to opt for an orchestral program, but to limit the event to a chamber music recital.

Sadly, the second wave of the pandemic prevented even that smaller scale event. Zurich’s Tonhalle Maag is currently closed, audiences limited to 50 people at most. However, the organizers did not give up at that point. They moved the anniversary concert to a smaller location, the Druckerei Baden, and they decided to offer two in lieu of one single concert. On top of that, there were two additional instances of the chamber music performance on the following day, in the context of Oliver Schnyder‘s series Piano District, in the very same location.


The Artist(s)

Over the 30 years since its creation Orpheum Foundation for the Advancement of Young Artists has supported a large number of young talents, the list of which reads like a “Who is Who” of the world’s younger generation artists. In its concerts, the foundation typically offers two talents a chance to perform with a notable orchestra and conductor. As outlined above, this could not work out in 2020. The format of a chamber music concert offered the opportunity the experience a performance with three Orpheum artists:

David Nebel, violin

The Swiss violinist David Nebel (*1996 in Zurich) started his violin education at the local conservatory, then continued his studies in Vienna with Boris Kuschnir (*1948), in Graz with Yair Kless (*1940),, then with the director of the LGT Young Soloists, Alexander A. Gilman (*1982), and finally, since 2013 at the Royal College of Music in London.

David Nebel performed on a 1704 violin by Antonius Stradivarius (1644), using a modern (Tourte type) bow.

Dorukhan Doruk, cello

Dorukhan Doruk is a Turkish cellist (*1991 in Istanbul) did his studies in Cologne, with Claus Kanngiesser (*1945), in Oslo with Truls Mørk (*1961), and currently with Jens Peter Maintz (*1967) in Berlin. Master classes with notable artists such as Yo-Yo Ma (*1955), David Geringas (*1946), Steven Isserlis (*1958), and Antônio Meneses (*1957) complemented his musical education.

Dorukhan Doruk’s instrument was a cello by the Milanese luthier Paolo Antonio Testore (1700 – 1767).

Oliver Schnyder, piano

The Swiss pianist Oliver Schnyder (*1973 in Brugg) not only was the young artists’ senior chamber music partner here: he once was receiving support by the foundation himself. In fact this sparked his career as soloist and chamber musician, and he now is one of Switzerland’s most prominent pianists. I can save the words for introducing him here, as I have witnessed his playing in close to 10 concerts that I have reviewed in this blog.

Oliver Schnyder’s instrument was a Steinway B-211 mid-size grand (a full size grand doesn’t fit into the elevator). The instrument was set up and tuned by Gebr. Bachmann in Wetzikon ZH. The lid was left fully open throughout the concert.


Program

As appropriate for his 250th birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) was the composer of all three works that featured in this concert’s program:

A second composer “snook in through a backdoor”, in the encore, see below.

Setting, etc.

Due to the pandemic, only a fraction of the capacity of the venue was used in this concert, with less than 50 listeners spread over the venue, in a well-distanced arrangement. My wife and I occupied seats in the center of the audience (main floor). We attended the afternoon performance, the first one of two concerts that day. My choice for the afternoon concert was conscious and deliberate. It helped minimizing the potential to viral exposure in the time of the pandemic.

Howard Griffiths (*1950), artistic director of the Orpheum Foundation, and Thomas Pfiffner, the foundation’s manager, opened the concert with a short introduction.


Concert & Review

David Nebel, Oliver Schnyder @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)
David Nebel, Oliver Schnyder @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)

Beethoven: Violin Sonata No.5 in F major, op.24, “Spring Sonata”

Beethoven composed his Violin Sonata No.5 in F major in 1801. The same year also saw the creation of the Violin Sonata No.4 in A minor, op.23. The “Spring Sonata” has its surname (almost certainly not Beethoven’s) from the serene character of the composition. Beethoven originally meant to publish it together with op.23, its more earnest sister sonata. More information on the composition is found in Wikipedia. Some years back, I have posted a detailed comparison of 9 recordings of this composition. The work comes with four movements:

  1. Allegro
  2. Adagio molto espressivo
  3. Scherzo: Allegro molto — Trio
  4. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo

The Performance

David Nebel, violin, and Oliver Schnyder, piano

I. Allegro

Already the presentation of the beginning of the main theme in the violin announced a very expressive, almost sumptuous interpretation—in dynamics, articulation, tone and vibrato. The latter was lively, but not obtrusive. It all was fitting the youthful romanticism in this sonata: joy, serenity.

When the piano followed up with the full version of the main theme, Oliver Schnyder naturally adopted David Nebel’s approach: he played with equally (if not even more) expressive and detailed dynamics, carefully shaping every melodic arch, performing with a rounded, harmonious tone. There was a little mishap in the transition to the second theme. There were a few more, really minor mishaps later on. This one was in a solo, and hence rather conspicuous. However, as the artists did not repeat the exposition, this was quickly forgotten.

Balance Issues

Throughout the movement, David Nebel’s playing remained expressive, though never trying to dominate with a dense or obtrusive tone. Unfortunately, the piano with its open lid was far too dominant, covering up many details in the violin part, especially in the p and pp passages. On the piano, the softest playing always felt at least mf (relative to the violin, that is). The acoustics of the venue may well have favored the piano over the violin here. If only the lid had been closed. I could not resist longing for a closed lid, or, even better, a fortepiano. Especially for this sonata from Beethoven’s early / middle period, the latter would have been much more appropriate than even a mid-size Steinway.
★★★

II. Adagio molto espressivo

Serene, peaceful music! The artists kept the calm pace, nothing ever felt rushed, nor did the movement lose tension and flow. David Nebel’s Strad was blooming up on the high strings, forming harmonious melodic arches. It was expressive, but again not obtrusive in the vibrato. Unfortunately, where the violin part is accompaniment, the instrument’s characterful, warm, almost dark tone was often completely lost next to the piano.

Yes, Oliver Schnyder’s was technically superb, phrasing and dynamics very detailed, if not elaborate. Sadly, it was “a number too big / loud”. This defeated the subtlety of the intimate moments, which David Nebel otherwise (as much as one could follow) shaped with much detail, diligence, warmth and care.
★★★

III. Scherzo: Allegro molto — Trio

Clearly the best movement in this performance: joking, agile, excellent in the coordination. The balance was far less of an issue here. In the Scherzo, as the violin is high above the piano part, and also intricately rhythmically shifted. In the Trio, the violin is first colla parte with the pianist’s right hand, or again at a high pitch.
★★★½

IV. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo

Here, the balance again suffered in the few intimate moments, and of course where the violin is playing pizzicato. For the most part however, the violin’s bright, projecting sound on the E string saved the balance. Yes, Oliver Schnyder’s performance was technically excellent (if only he was playing a fortepiano!!). Throughout the sonata, he kept contact with the violinist. This did not happen through direct eye contact, but in peripheral vision over his right shoulder.
★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★

Dorukhan Doruk, Oliver Schnyder @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)
Dorukhan Doruk, Oliver Schnyder @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)

Beethoven: Cello Sonata No.5 in D major, op.102/2

The two cello sonatas op.102 are works from 1815, clearly showing attributes of Beethoven’s late style. Rather than giving a long introduction, let me point to my extensive comparison post featuring 12 recordings (from 1939 up to 2013, with 9 cellists & 12 pianists). That post also includes an introduction with score samples. On top of that, I have reviewed an earlier concert performance (2017-11-18) featuring that sonata. There are three movements:

  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Adagio con molto sentimento d’affetto —
  3. Allegro – Allegro fugato

The Performance

Dorukhan Doruk, cello, and Oliver Schnyder, piano

It felt as if (more than in the violin sonata, maybe) Beethoven had paid special attention to letting the cello play out its strength, the warm, singing tone! In fact, Dorukhan Doruk’s Testore cello showed its strength, a warm, intense sound, particularly suited for lyrical segments. It’s not an instrument with a huge, dark and bulbous sonority. Yet it was well-projecting in this venue.

I. Allegro con brio

The first movement is frequently alternating between the resolute, “gripping” opening motif / theme, and singing, lyrical segments. Oliver Schnyder launched the movement with attack and impetus, and in the closing part of the exposition, the two artists appeared to compete about who has more verve. Actually, the execution of the opening motif wasn’t always entirely coherent between the two instruments. In general, however, the coordination, as well as the artistic agreement between the musicians was excellent, the tone of the cello delightfully singing, especially in the lyrical segments.

There were passages, though, where again the string instrument was nearly drowning in the sound of the piano. Oliver Schnyder’s phrasing, articulation and dynamics were excellent in general, but overall again often too loud, not always letting the cello fully play out its qualities.
★★★

II. Adagio con molto sentimento d’affetto —

Despite the “with a lot of feeling of affection” in the annotation, Dorukhan Doruk started the movement without vibrato, also later vibrating only selectively. At the beginning, this instantly created a bleak, restrained, reflective atmosphere. Oliver Schnyder joined into this, with carefully articulated hemidemisemiquaver turns and agogics. He applied equally well-shaped dynamics, playing out the warm, rounded bass register of the Steinway (in excellent condition, as expected).

The absolute highlight was the dolce middle part, so wonderfully lyrical, singing on both instruments, diligent agogics—heavenly serenity! Only in the earnest, reflective minore part (bars 51ff.), Dorukhan Doruk’s cello felt clearly more subtle and lyrical than the piano. The last segment gain restored the balance, and Dorukhan Doruk formed a masterful transition to the final movement, full of suspense and expectation.
★★★★

III. Allegro – Allegro fugato

To some degree, the balance issues returned in this four-part fugue. For the most part, though, the performance was transparent enough to let the listener follow the theme through the polyphonic texture. However, I concede that the complexity of this masterwork (not just in the polyphony, but also in the occasional austerity in the harmonic progression) made it easy to forget listening to the actual performance. One could say that Beethoven’s mastership took the lead in this piece. In many aspects, this anticipates the Great Fugue, op.133, other fugues in the late string quartets, or the one in the Piano Sonata No.30 in in B♭ major, op.106 (“Hammerklavier”).

The artists kept the flow, the drive through the entire movement, without drop-out in the tension. The exception, of course, was at the fermata in bar 142, where Beethoven pretends to introduce a lyrical theme in the cello. It’s a short window of serenity and calm, after which the composer returns to the fugue. A brilliant masterpiece, indeed, in an excellent, mature performance.
★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★½

Comparing this performance with David Nebel’s is unfair. Sure, the Spring Sonata is a masterwork. However, as composition, Beethoven’s last cello sonata is simply not comparable. It is more demanding on the listener, even more of a masterwork. On top of that, the age difference between David Nebel and Dorukhan Doruk of course played out to the latter’s favor.


David Nebel, Oliver Schnyder, Dorukhan Doruk @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)
David Nebel, Oliver Schnyder, Dorukhan Doruk @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)

Beethoven: Piano Trio No.4 in B♭ major, op.11, “Gassenhauer Trio

The title for the Piano Trio No.4 in B♭ major, op.11 correctly reads “Trio für Pianoforte, Clarinette oder Violine und Violoncell”. In other words: it’s either a regular piano trio, or a trio for piano, clarinet, and cello. The score contains both parts, clarinet and violin, with minor alterations for the two instrumental options. The composition features three movements:

  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Adagio
  3. Tema con variazioni: Allegretto

The last movement is a set of 9 variations on a (then) popular melody “Pria ch’io l’impegno” (“Before I go to work”). This is from the opera “L’amor marinaro ossia Il corsaro” (“A Seaman’s Love” or “The Corsican”) by Joseph Weigl (1766 – 1846). A popular melody that was sung in the streets was called “Gassenhauer” (“something that hits the streets”). So, the trio is also known as “Gassenhauer Trio”. Other composers have used this same melody as well. I have adapted this description from the review of a concert in Bern, on 2017-05-15, actually also featuring Oliver Schnyder at the piano.

The Performance

I. Allegro con brio

I must say that I prefer the version of the trio with clarinet (at least, that sticks to my mind more prominently than the version with violin). On the other hand, this performance allowed David Nebel and Dorukhan Doruk to demonstrate their excellent coherence in coordination, articulation and intonation.

Very often, the two string instruments move in parallel octaves. And they often almost sounded like a single instrument. Together, they could easily withstand the volume of the piano. Plus, the piano’s descant often alternated with the string instruments, so balance was not a real issue. The exception was in the development part, where the piano with its long sequence of semiquaver figures seemed unnecessarily dominant (albeit clear and virtuosic). Overall, however, the three artists presented a very coherent and convincing performance!
★★★★

II. Adagio

Such beautiful cello singing in the initial presentation of the theme! When the violin joined in, it seemed to compete with the cello in refinement and expression. The Steinway, however, couldn’t possibly come close to this. In relation to the string instruments, it sounded almost coarse. I don’t blame this on the pianist, though. The descant of a modern grand could not possibly match the lyricism and the subtlety of violin and cello.
★★★½

III. Tema con variazioni (“Pria ch’io l’impegno”): Allegretto

A brilliant ending of the official part of the program: light, playful, fun in the theme! The first variation (piano only) clear, virtuosic. Too bad that there was a loud, rumbling noise from some floor above. This happened exactly while the cello had a pp solo in the second variation. The perils of an afternoon performance! Luckily, this was a singular, isolated incident. The subsequent, intimate and expressive duet with the violin remained undisturbed.

The following variations were full of contrasts:

  1. resolute and fun, enthralling
  2. (Minore) earnest, pensive—an extreme contrast
  3. brilliant runs on the piano
  4. joking, scherzando, playful
  5. Minore again
  6. a motoric accompaniment on the piano, excellent intonation purity in the parallel string octaves
  7. joyful, extroverted, with a piano cadenza (in which the long trill on the piano—unnecessarily—felt rather loud) that leads into the closing Allegro—a “last dance” in a tidy mood. An excellent ending!

★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

It was a pity that in two of the three sonata form movements (opening movements), the exposition was not repeated. However, this may find an explanation in the fact that there were four identical concert performances over two days.

David Nebel, Oliver Schnyder, Dorukhan Doruk @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)
David Nebel, Oliver Schnyder, Dorukhan Doruk @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)

Encore — Haydn: Piano Trio No.39 in G major, “Gipsy Trio” (Finale: Rondo all’Ongarese)

The concert was not entirely over, however. Oliver Schnyder announced an encore as “you all know this one!”. I’m not sure this holds true for the majority of the audience (other than the chamber music connoisseurs). I noted several people discussing what this might have been. A possible “trap” was that the artist switched from Beethoven to Haydn:

Throughout his long, productive career, Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) wrote as many as 45 piano trios. That’s probably too many for people to keep track of. So, in concert halls, we usually hear a small subset of these works, if not even just the one with a popular surname: Piano Trio No.39 in G major, Hob.XV:25, “Gipsy Trio”. The composer published this trio in 1795, together with Nos.38 (D major, Hob.XV/24) and No.40 (F♯ minor, Hob.XV/26), as op.73. As encore, the artists performed the final movement, which indirectly gave the trio its name Rondo a l’Ongarese. It is annotated Presto.

I have discussed a concert performance of the entire Trio No.39 in Bern, on 2018-04-23.

The Performance

It’s for good reason that this trio is so popular among Haydn’s chamber music works! It is brilliant, virtuosic, enthralling, the piano filling a clear lead function in the Rondo theme. The “Hungarian” character is most prominent in the syncopated couplets. Was it Haydn’s composition or the brilliant piano part which made listeners forget or ignore balance issues?


Conclusion

Formally, the evening performance on the same day (which I did not attend) was slightly more elaborate & festive (no, by no means I’m implying that the afternoon performance felt like a dress rehearsal!). It opened with an introductory speech by Hans-Heinrich Coninx, the initiator of the Orpheum Foundation, and now chairman of the board. Also, the radio presenter Eva Oertle introduced the artists and the pieces. The group photo below was taken after the evening performance:

Group Photo, Concert Orpheum Foundation @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)
Thomas Pfiffner, Dorukhan Doruk, David Nebel, Eva Oertle (Radio DRS), Oliver Schnyder, Hans-Heinrich Coninx, Claudia Coninx-Kaczynski — Concert Orpheum Foundation @ Baden, 2020-11-07 (© Michael Steiner / Orpheum Foundation)

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