Violinist Alda Dizdari may just have taken a while to settle in to the performance, but the opening Debussy Sonata did not come across particularly well. Piano and violin didn’t quite lock in together and the Debussy ‘wash’ of sound, akin to an impressionist watercolour, was not apparent – the tone was harsh and rhythms angular. It was a style of playing that fitted Schoenberg’s Phantasy much better. This was a great improvement, as the violin began to express tonal colouring to enrich the twelve-tone row, and a much more intuitive and pleasing dialogue emerged between the soloist and the sometimes cheeky accompaniment.

Three short pieces by Sibelius saw out the first half. All three were charming and made a display of the performer’s virtuosity – testament to Sibelius’ early development, when it was expected he would become a concert violinist rather than a composer. These pieces show off an early Sibelius writing in a romantic idiom which he quickly outgrew, but their hummable tunes and lively dances made for a fun close to the half.

The second half was, overall, a more enjoyable experience. I find every specimen of Bartók’s string writing truly stunning and here his Sonata no. 2 made a mark on the concert. Dizdari’s enthusiastic wriggling, which I’d found distracting in the first half, made sense in this performance, and, though pianist Tom Blach was occasionally over-enthusiastic (dynamically overpowering the violin and allowing the tempo to drift a little), the duo produced a powerful, beautiful sound.

Webern’s Four Pieces for Violin and Piano are incredibly short. However, they are surprisingly meaty and structurally sound and this gives the impression of a much more significant piece – music in concentrate.

Ending with Ravel’s Sonata made sense in this programme, as we arrived back in Paris after our short European tour, which had spanned no more than 20 years but encompassed some very varied music. This was an accomplished performance that played on musical subtleties. Piano and violin now synched perfectly, the music sparkled.

The encore produced the best performance of the evening – which redeemed the earlier misjudgement of the Debussy sonata. This was another Debussy piece, which this time was played with all the necessary sensitivity. Where the first sonata was awkward, this performance was smooth, and left me confident that it must only have been a case of nerves or performers’ distraction from a restless audience (a whole train’s worth of audience took their seats during the first piece) that caused the first piece to flounder. If this concert taught me anything it’s to try to avoid, or at least ignore, first impressions.
Movements and expressions, at Southbank Centre: Purcell RoomAlda Dizdari performed Sibelius, Webern, Debussy and Ravel at the Southbank Centre. Reviewed by Arthur Keegan-Bole.3