Peer Quantrill listens to the performance at Wigmore Hall on 27 April 2019
An astute last-minute substitution replaced Fauré with Enescu, whose Third Violin Sonata set the tone for an authentic Kopatchinskaja experience, celebrating music at an elemental level. For the opening phrase alone, she found four or more distinct shades of vibrato, perfectly matched by Polina Leschenko’s bell-like accompaniment.
As a friend of the composer, Menuhin used to own this piece; in our own time, so does Kopatchinskaja, playing in turn the roles of gypsy, mage and visionary. She linked Enescu’s explorations of untampered pitch to their modern counterparts in spectral composition with the Piece for clarinet and violin by Claude Vivier. Reto Bieri proved himself a worthy counterpart – no mean feat – to the violinist’s outlandish imagination in the wild swirls and whispered incantations of both Vivier and Bartók, when the trio joined forces for an irresistibly earthy account of the Contrasts.
The second half took us out from taverns and caves into the light and the countryside – for Au contraire, the tale of the Grasshopper (Kopatchinskaja) and the Ant (Bieri), told in a musical cartoon by Leo Dick, and for a courtship scene acted out on the Wigmore stage through a little dance by Milhaud (from the Suite op.157b). In Poulenc’s late Clarinet Sonata, Bieri turned on a sixpence between clownish larks and deep introspection, before the Jewish accent in Milhaud’s voice was underscored by Paul Schoenfield’s Trio: a collection of fluently assembled klezmer clichés that even the inventive gifts of Kopatchinskaja and her colleagues could not elevate beyond feel-good exuberance.