Bach • Beethoven • Wieniawski
The stakes were high for Maxim Vengerov when, in 2012, he made his return to Wigmore Hall after an enforced four-year sabbatical, following a fall and shoulder injury. He takes a while to warm up in the Bach Partita, and the opening Allemanda sounds cautious at first, as if he harbours internal doubts about his ability to carry it off. He lingers overmuch on the first notes of phrases, and its dance roots seem far away. But something clicks into place in the following three movements, with the Giga especially lithe. The great final Chaconne has some awkward moments, not least in pacing and tonal firmness, though there are magical changes of colour.
In the Beethoven there’s more consistency, and greater depth than in his 1991 studio version. The recording sometimes favours Itamar Golan’s rather hard-edged piano, however, and he brings a level of aggression to the first movement and finale that encourages Vengerov to push too much. The variations in the second movement bring more calm, although there’s roughness at times in his intonation and tone. Still, I imagine this was a thrilling concert.