Dimitar Burov and Mina Miletic played four pieces in the lovely setting of Holywell Music Room: Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin in D minor BWV 1004; Shostakovich’s Sonata for violin and piano opus 134 inspired by the Bach; Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Shostakovich’s Sonata for viola and piano opus 147 inspired by the Beethoven.
Burov started by playing the Chaconne for solo violin, Partita no. 2 in D Minor by J S Bach. This was Bach as I have never heard him played before: the passion and yearning in his interpretation were mesmerising. A chaconne is apparently a ¾ dance and the bow certainly danced on the violin, building to ‘a climax of arpeggios’.
This was followed by Shostakovich’s Sonata for violin and piano op 134. Written in 1968, it came at a time in Shostakovich’s life when ill health had started to dog him - he had his first heart attack in 1967. His music at this period in his life became morbid and full of gloom, as if he could see his own death marching towards him. His friend the violinist, David Oistrakh, said that the first movement depicts his heart attack and subsequent trip to hospital by ambulance. There is anger in the music too: in particular in the second movement, which is apparently Shostakovich’s fury at the invasion of then Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Shostakovich had a difficult relationship with the Russian authorities all his life; at times being disgraced and humiliated, at times held up as a representative of Russian culture.
Miletic’s rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was sheer magic. It is rare to hear this sonata played live, but to hear the sheer passion of the first movement, the playfulness of the second movement and the power of the third movement under Miletic’s nimble fingers was, for me, the highlight of the concert.
This was followed by Shostakovich’s Sonata for viola and piano, op 147. By this time, Shostakovich was dying from lung cancer and could barely move his semi-paralysed right arm. The notes call this his requiem and indeed he completed the final revision only three days before he died. The first and third movements of this sonata are more lyrical, with pizzicato passages and graveyard overtones. Quite extraordinary, then, is the playful second movement, so unlike any other Shostakovich played today. I did not pick the Bach in the first sonata Opus 134, but the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata is clearly to be heard in the final movement of this one, mainly in the piano but at times echoed by the viola.
Both Miletic and Burov are of Bulgarian descent, but have studied and lived here most of their lives. Both are extraordinarily talented musicians and it was a privilege to hear them play. They are both involved in music at Harrow School – lucky Harrovians.Oxford Chamber Music Society brings a variety of chamber music groups to Holywell Music Room seven times a year over the winter season. There is one more concert this season and the new season then starts again in October.