The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Laurence Kayaleh (violin) Paul Stewart (piano)
Composer: Medtner

Completed in 1938, shortly after the Russian-born composer Nikolai Medtner made his home in England, the five-movement Third Violin Sonata outlasts most 20th-century symphonies in length. Its rhapsodic style of writing provides Medtner’s ideas with ample space to express his many emotions of relief and sadness following his escape from his revolutionary homeland. There is joy in the Scherzo, sad contemplation in the slow movement and a finale that offers an outgoing display of virtuosity as the music gains momentum to end in optimism. It is a score of equal partnership calling for warmth and intensity as the instruments weave a web around the melodic line.

Since starting her career as the winner of the Swiss Young Musician Competition, Laurence Kayaleh has become a major artist on both sides of the Atlantic. Her impassioned vibrato and subtle use of colours sing eloquently from her 1742 Guarneri, and she sculpts the long flowing contoured lines with an intuitive response to Medtner’s music.

Her lyric approach and intonational purity are equally persuasive in the Three Nocturnes, sombre pieces inspired by Goethe’s poem Nachtgesang, where sleep offers relief from life’s experiences, an idea that takes the music into dark recesses. Jascha Heifetz’s transcription of the Fairy Tale, originally for piano, comes as a lightweight encore.

The Canadian pianist Paul Stewart is a champion of Medtner’s music, and his accompaniments always unify the composer’s diverse and fast-moving ideas. The engineers provide a well-balanced sound.