After having the chance of hearing the Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma as soloist in a superb account of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, it was a rare treat to attend a recital at Ukaria with its magnificent acoustics. So intimate and warm was the experience of both the venue and the playing that it felt at times as if the audience was within the body of her Stradivarius itself. Lamsma possesses a seemingly limitless palette of tonal colours which were used throughout the programme, and a flawless technique with which to support and stake her claim. Here was a true masterclass in the finest contrapuntal masterworks composed for the solo instrument with all three composers – Bach, Ysaÿe and Hindemith – writing with the most virtuosic tools available to them at the time.
Simone Lamsma. Photo © Otto van den Toorn
Lamsma chose to open and close the recital with two sonatas from Eugene Ysaÿe’s masterly yet under-heard brace of works making up his Opus 27. All six sonatas in this set use solo Bach as their bouncing-off point and are dedicated to famous fellow violinists of the time including the likes of Szigeti and Enescu (teacher of Menuhin, among others) and it is the sonatas dedicated to these two named virtuosi which are presented here with impeccable performances. Amazingly Ysaÿe sketched out all six works in a single night, completing them shortly afterwards in a period of white-hot compositional intensity. Lamsma excelled in these, especially in the named “Ballade”, No 3 which include suggested folksongs and gypsy rhythms from the composer’s area of Eastern Europe. She made the long strings of interpolated half notes seem not only right at home, but effortless.
Bach’s Second Partita has long held a position as perhaps the most important solo work, period, with its closing monumental Chaconne. With its seemingly endless stream of variations and demand for a continually changing kaleidoscope of colours and effects, here the violinist truly shone. Her con legno effects were viscerally exciting, as was her performance of the Hindemith Sonata Op. 11 No 6, a relatively recent rediscovery having laid lost amongst papers until the 2000s. Yes, Hindemith could write for any instrument at will; he was a craftsman who never suffered from a lack of inspiration. So he could be accused of tuneless note spinning within his Gebrauchtmusik, but this piece is an undiscovered gem, particularly when placed in the hands of such an exacting and exciting musician. May more violinists take this up, please!
All works were passionately played with concentration and utter conviction. Here is a complete musician and one of those all too rare ones wherein the music seems to flow through them, making only making the score some fresh, but seemingly somehow almost recreating the work as it is played. Here was an all too rare perfect recital given by a formidable musician within a highly sympathetic environment. My, even a rather curious and vocal magpie knew to pipe down when Simone started into Bach.