Thank you to Julia Meredith for this wonderful review of Aleksey Semenenko and Inna Firsova at St James.
Wednesday night may have been cold and foggy, but inside St James temperatures were cooking. BBC3 New Generation violinist Aleksey Semenenko and pianist Inna Firsova, left us shaken and stirred by a programme that has previously wowed capacity audiences in such cultural centres as Washington, Berlin, London, Dubrovnik and more. And they gave it their all, despite that in Guernsey the audience was relatively tiny. The excitement and enthusiasm, however, filled the hall to bursting.
This young duo have all the romantic good looks of a couple from a Russian drama – but when they play, their faces mirror the expression of the music in a way that breaks through the masks. Technically accomplished as it certainly was, it would have been half the performance with your eyes closed.
The Brahms sonata No 2 was a dream pairing of performers and music, and like ideal dancing partners, violin and piano shadowed each other with perfect timing and precociously mature tenderness.
The Ravel Sonata No.2 that followed ended the dream-like trance with a glorious introduction to Aleksey’s youthful virtuosity, giving him free rein to show off his blinding technique in a blur of string-snapping relish. Audience and pianist were grinning helplessly as Aleksey’s patent brogues tapped a syncopated percussion to Ravel’s jazzy cakewalk (I doubt he was aware of it!)
Clara Schumann’s Romances after interval rode the gentlest waves of sensation, melancholy and nostalgic. Less conventionally charming – or at least familiar – was Szymanowski’s Myth: La Fontaine d’Arethuse, a disconcerting unearthly landscape of glimpses from the corner of the eye and tremors in the undergrowth.
The footstomping finale was Saint-Saens’ Havanaise, Cuban-African fusion that was pure seduction. Fiery, caressing, Aleksey’s black dress shirt gaped to reveal its scarlet facings as he bent and stretched into the hotblooded Latin rhythms and superhigh notes.
It was a fitting image to carry away of the power of emotion to break through perfect control.