Wigmore Hall was the venue for the 17 September 2019 concert, attended by Edward Bhesania
Winner of the 2014 Menuhin Competition aged 17, the Dutch–American violinist Stephen Waarts opened his Wigmore Hall recital with Fauré’s Violin Sonata no.1. He overly favoured purity and restraint, ultimately underserving the work’s rich Romanticism. Faultless as his playing was, he needed to allow himself more indulgence.
Szymanowski’s Myths was a different story: the first, ‘The Fountain of Arethusa’, opened up an ephemeral sound world aptly describing the rippling spring that the mythological nymph Arethusa had been transformed into. The achingly beautiful cantilena of ‘Narcissus’ clearly showed how its titular figure could fall in love with his own beauty. ‘Dryads and Pan’ was alive with the pursuit of forest nymphs, complete with a magical array of harmonics as Pan breathes over his pipes.
Another composer, another transformation: Bartók’s Violin Sonata no.2 emerged not as played sounds but as a beguiling series of thoughts or behaviours – a remarkable feat. Then Waarts conveyed the modal folk-colouring and tempo elasticities of Bartók’s Rhapsody no.2 with what appeared to be absolute authority, never straying into picture postcard territory. The encore, an arrangement of Brahms’s Lied Wie Melodien zieht es mir, showed a hint of the lyrical apprehension heard in the Fauré, but by now the Szymanowski and Bartók performances were seared in the memory.