Maxim Rysanov, Holywell Music Room, Oxford, 7 November 2008

It’s not often I go to a concert which is so exceptional I’m lost for words.  But Maxim Rysanov is such an impressive artist mere prose cannot do justice to the experience of hearing him.  He plays the viola with an assurance which is breathtaking. Why oh why one wonders is the repertoire for the viola so small?

Rysanov’s Ukrainian roots no doubt contribute to the passion and expressiveness of his playing.  His technique is amazingly accomplished and he has the presence of a true master.  Hearing him play is like hearing music truly for the first time – not a succession of notes but something close to speech.

Last Friday he was performing at the Holywell Music Rooms along with his regular accompanist Katya Apekisheva in a programme of Brahms, Britten and Bridge.

Brahms’ two Op. 120 sonatas are best known in the versions for clarinet – they were written for the clarinettist Richard Mühfeld.  But Brahms also made arrangements for the viola. Rysanov and Apekiseva performed Op. 120 No.1.

The second piece in the recital was Britten’s Lachrymae, written in 1950.  The work consists of a set of ‘reflections’ on the music of John Dowland, a composer renowned for his melancholic moods.

After the interval we heard an early piece of Brahms, the Scherzo from the so called ‘FAE’ sonata written jointly by Brahms, Schumann and a pupil of Schumann’s for the great violinist Joachim.

Bridge’s haunting There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook followed, in an arrangement for viola and piano by Britten.  In the final piece Rysanov and Apekisheva  were joined by the cellist Kristine Blaumane for Brahms’ Trio for Viola, Cello and Piano. Op.114.

Rysanov plays with a lyricism and eloquence which has to be heard to be believed.  Both of the Brahms Op.120 sonatas, the trio Op.114 and other works are available of a double-CD released in September on the Onyx label – the perfect Christmas present.

This review appeared in the Oxford Times.

Links to some other Oxford Times reviews:

Ligeti Quartet

Until the hour, a play by David K. O’Hara

The Hilliard Ensemble and Chilingirian Quartet performing Gesualdo and Haydn

Preview of Vivaldi ‘s L’incoronazione di Dario, Garsington Opera