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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Live Music Review: Joo Yeon Sir (Violin) & Irina Andrievsky (Piano)

s part of the Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival, acclaimed violinist Joo Yeon Sir was accompanied by the talented pianist Irina Andrievsky for a lunchtime performance at the Drill Hall, Lincoln. With world-class skill, the duo played three compilations by various composers.

The first section of the show is a rendition of Suite in the Old Style, from the lesser known Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke. The pair ease us into the afternoon with some steady, upbeat movements. Hardly an offensive start to the show, Sir and Andrievsky closely reflect the exuberant quality of the music with an unmistakeable sense of playfulness and an impressive aptitude, which remains throughout the afternoon.

While the music is perfectly pleasant, and we immediately get the impression that we are watching highly talented musicians, these movements seem rather tame. We get the sense that Schnittke’s rather twee pieces don’t fully utilise their ability. Perhaps this is fitting for a relaxed afternoon, but it isn’t quite enough to rouse our interest completely.

Schnittke’s 1972 Suite in Old Style was composed in the happier period of the composer’s life, in a cheery, Baroque style. It is extremely Pastorale, yet the collection seems disjointed – the suite is after all, a seemingly random compendium of the composer’s film score movements. We move from some up tempo, joyful refrains, to the melancholier harmonies, and the musicians handle this contrast well. Regrettably, Sir’s violin takes a slight backseat in this opening section, which concludes with the most interesting movements, which – while still subdued – provides us with a preview of the violinist’s capabilities.

Korean-born Joo Yeon Sir has won a plethora of accolades throughout her career, including the prestigious Sir Karl Jenkins Music Award and the BBC/Guardian Young Composer of the Year. She was the overall Grand Prix Laureate at the Nedyalka Simeonova International Violin Competition in Bulgaria, when she was just 16.

We move on to a much more well-known composition, César Franck’s Sonata in A major. Playing a more consistent piece, Sir is able to effectively showcase her skills. She mournfully draws her bow across the strings, while the symbiotic relationship between the performers shines through.

They both seem to feel the sadness in the music as they play, and a nimble balance is formed, giving the impression that the composition has a personal resonance with them. In contrast to the opening section, these movements provide a much more concise theme, and the songlike melodies allow for a stronger dialogue to be established between them.

The concluding segment – the Spanish Folksong Suite, originally arranged by Polish composer Paul Kochanski, further exhibits the harmonious connection between the duo. The sometimes discordant piece is dexterously performed by Sir – whose violin is elegantly underpinned by the restrained keys from Andrievsky. Although the upbeat, flamenco-like spirit of the movements give them more range, we can’t help but feel that these arrangements are still confining their evidently astonishing prowess.

Born in Upha, Russia, Irina Andrievsky went to Moscow to study at the Central Music School for Specially Gifted Children at age 11. She has won international piano awards in Italy, and is actively involved with the Royal College of Music in London.

We are treated to the first truly unbridled demonstration of Sir and Kochanski’s mastery in the form of an encore performance of a 1971 movement entitled Souvenir, by Slovak composer Ladislav Kupkovič. The deft way Sir pucks and dances with her instrument is a spectacle, and it is matched by Kochanski’s impassioned strikes of the piano – this piece at last giving us the extravaganza we were anticipating.

Joo Yeon Sir and Irina Andrievsky have delivered an afternoon of world class chamber music, performed with grace and finesse. Though at times this elegance was subdued, their flawless execution was anything but slack.

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