The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Vadim Tchijik (violin) David Bismuth (piano)
Composer: Prokofiev

Even in such distinguished company as Itzhak Perlman (RCA) and Schlomo Mintz (DG), Erik Schumann’s 2008 coupling of Prokofiev’s two violin sonatas struck me as especially beguiling, particularly in the First Sonata’s feroce second movement and moto perpetuo finale.

Vadim Tchijik, a former prizewinner at both the Tchaikovsky and Paganini competitions and now in his mid-30s, presents a very different kind of view, one that works particularly well with Prokofiev. Rather than swamping the sound-stage with lashings of post-Romantic opulence, Tchijik takes his lead from the First Sonata’s neo-Classical gesturing as a pure, small-voiced innocent struggling to survive in an occasionally hostile, highly changeable musical landscape. As a result, this much-underrated masterwork emerges not as rough-hewn ‘Bruch without the tunes’ but as a strikingly inventive score of haunting originality.

The Second Sonata responds more readily to cantabile espressivo, yet, as Tchijik convincingly demonstrates, it is still profoundly neo-Classical in its impulse and gesturing. Most players take their lead from the shimmering lyricism and skin-tingling harmonies of the opening movement’s primary material, but Tchijik is closer to Oistrakh and Kogan (especially) by playing it relatively cool and never imposing a semantic weight on music that simply can’t sustain the emotional pressure. David Bismuth sounds completely at one with Tchijik’s conception and the recording is realistically balanced.