Lara St. John and Matt Herskowitz Give a Jolt of Energy to a Couple of Old Standards
Violinist Lara St. John and pianist Matt Herskowitz have a delightful, insightful new album, Key of A – streaming at Spotify – which offers a fresh, energetic approach to a couple of iconic A major pieces from the 19th century repertoire as well as Fritz Kreisler’s Schön Rosmarin. The two’s reckless abandon is refreshing: this isn’t sedate wine-hour music for the idle classes of Napoleonic Vienna.
The duo approach the first movement of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata with a sparse, spacious suspense before following an icepick velocity through the volleys that follow, lyricism balanced by lively displays of chops. St. John can be raw and searing one moment, gentle and balletesque another, depending on the passage, and the composition gives her a wide canvas to paint.
Likewise, Herskowitz’s methodical steadiness and almost gleeful baroque ornamentation in the much moodier second movement. The third has the feel of a boisterous country dance, but also a penetrating, Bach-like gothic edge.
Franck’s Sonata in A major turns out to be just as dynamic, and if anything, more lyrical, through the moodily dancing key changes of the first movement through the prowling, often windswept rumble and ripple of the second. They parse the third judiciously, sometimes emphatically, sometimes with remarkable restraint, then cut loose with an unrestrained triumph in the fourth. It’s a considerably more vigorous counterpart to Alina Ibragimova and Cedric Tiberghien‘s more delicately detailed, recently released take.
St. John and Herskowitz bounce their way through Kreisler’s cheery waltz to close the album. If music that wears its heart on its sleeve is your thing, don’t miss this.