The March weather cast dark clouds over the country with unusually severe heavy snow for two weekends. But the recital by violinist Coco Tomita and pianist Svitlana Kosenko last Saturday brought a shining stream of light to Breinton where everyone was longing for spring.
The programme, which included a Brahms’ Sonata, two movements from Bach’s solo Sonata, six Paganini Caprices and Ravel’s Tzigane, stimulated the musical appetite of all violin lovers. And Coco did not disappoint; it was way beyond a simple recital by a teenage violinist in preparation for a competition. She showed extraordinary ability by any standard which resulted in a full satisfaction from the audience. I hope Coco felt it too.
With Brahms Sonata No. 1, Coco and Svitlana offered the most tender and intimate side of the composer’s works. The true sense of chamber music showed through the impeccable collaboration between the two performers. While there was no showy bravado in this Sonata, it was like a hidden inner feeling was slowly and delicately unfolding. In the first movement, Coco’s beautiful clarity of line was singing and soaring, extending into a lyrical fantasy. In the second movement, I thought her phrasing was touchingly personal; the connection of the phrases smoothly done and double-stopping fantastically executed. Svitlana’s expertise of understanding the temperament, volume and timing added indispensable value to create such a mature performance.
Coco performed a total of six of Paganini’s Caprices. For most people, they are devilishly impossible pieces of violin solo works, but what an astounding performance it was. There was a great mix of seriousness and playfulness with Caprice No. 13, and a dexterity show-off with No. 5. Caprice No. 20 reminded me of a bagpipe with the D string as a drone – beautifully done. One audience member cited, ‘Paganini would have been happy with her performance’.
Inserting Adagio and Fuga of Bach’s violin Solo Sonata gave a clean outbreak to the second half. Never afraid of usage of the full bow, the sound had a pleasant, non-decorative straightforwardness.
Ravel’s Tzigane completed the evening. Coco showed a completely different side of her from the Brahms Sonata: as if to say, “I own this piece, I own this stage”, a diva attitude which was acutely suited to this instance. The first note in, Coco had already captured everyone’s attention, and the music climaxed tirelessly until the last moment. I so enjoyed the fleshy, meaty, deeply engaging tone of the violin. Here again, the two performers’ collaboration was spot-on, bringing out the craziness and madness of this powerful, exotic and haunting masterwork.
Still a student at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Coco must be under the instruction of highly regarded teachers and digesting them diligently. But this time, I felt that she had established her own interpretation, her own decision and way to express herself, which couldn’t be possibly taught or told by anyone else.