A dreary mist had begun to fall on the Mall last night, and inside the National Gallery the atmosphere was bleaker still. Fortunately, memories of boredom, like those of pain, tend to be ephemeral. And it is with that hope only that I write about Margot Collins' violin recital at the East Garden Court.
There was first a particularly forgettable sonata by Jean-Joseph Mondonville, distinguished only by a Haydnesque andante and by squeaky playing. The squeaks turned out to be the leitmotif of the evening, a stylistic stamp smeared on works of Bartok and Franck as well. Well beyond simple miscalculations of the bow, Collins often seemed unable to finish phrases cleanly, or even onthe same tone.
At least the squeaks at the end of lines might be called idiomatic by some in Bartok's Sonata No. 1, a work which on its own merits caused quite a few defections between movements from the audience. It is a demanding and thankless thing, and Collins' labored performance did not win it any friends. The tempos were rigid, the anguish in the adagios wore high heels and in the finale the pizzicati were plucked flat.
It was pianist Frank Conlon who made an impression in Franck's Sonata in A Major, and it was from the piano that the harmonic surprises of that work were brought to life. Collins did show considerable intelligence in the second movement, and in the final canon between the two instruments one could almost forgive the rest of the evening. But not quite.