The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Charlie Siem (violin), Andrei Korobeinikov (piano)
Composer: Elgar, Grieg
In his fine booklet note, Charlie Siem draws interesting parallels between Grieg and Elgar, who composed the violin sonatas in this recital during what might be termed their respective ‘late’ periods. This appears to have had a profound effect on Siem’s interpretations, which possess a hauntingly reflective, autumnal quality that (especially in the Elgar) make one constantly aware of musical correspondences with late Brahms. Whereas Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires in their celebrated DG account of all three Grieg sonatas impulsively emphasise the ‘appassionato’ and ‘espressivo’ of the composer’s movement headings, Siem and Andrei Korobeinikov, while certainly lacking nothing in emotional power, keep the music on a more even expressive keel. As result the finale’s patchwork-quilt structure hangs together far more convincingly than usual, with musical events flowing naturally into one another rather than set on a collision course.
There is a similarly bitter-sweet quality about Siem’s approach to the Elgar Sonata. Leaning more towards cantabile flow than vertical thrust, he traces the music’s undulating phrases so keenly that even the notoriously tricky finale is made to feel like the natural conclusion and resolution of everything that has gone before. No less poignant are the two Szigeti-arranged Elgar miniatures, whose enchanting simplicity sounds especially radiant here, as do Grieg’s op.5 melodies. Andrei Korobeinikov proves an unusually sympathetic and responsive accompanist, while engineers Andrew Keener and Simon Eadon provide exemplary sound that is as undistractingly natural as the music-making itself.