The Masterly violin of Vadim Repin

- Le Monde, January 29, 2001 -

original article (French) at le Monde Site

The Russian violinist gives a recital with his companion, pianist Boris Berezovzky.

He is a tall young man with a broad-shouldered figure, leather trousers, a small pair of glasses, his face still marked with a trace of childhood. It's clear that Vadim Repin doesn't look like one of those flamboyant violinists. With the attitude of a young intellectual - apart from the slight mockery in his twinkling eyes - he even seems to be a little severe. But when there's an instrument under his chin and a bow in his hand, his face transfigures and becomes joyful. Vadim Repin is beautiful when he's playing.

Vadim Repin was born in Siberia thirty years ago. When he was 7 years old, he enrolled the picked troops of Zakhar Bron. Today he is the one who's holding the trumpcard, from the group of virtuosos coming from the smithy of the Russian pedagogue. Who can beat that? Vadim Repin, Maxim Vengerov, and also more recently Daishin Kashimoto and Kirill Troussov aren't the first ones who look like child prodigies - starting lessons at 5, first concert 6 months later, winning competitions as if it were only simple formalities (Wieniawski, Tibor Varga in 1987 and above all the Queen Elizabeth Competition when he was 17): a continuous 'violin-centrism'. For the unique child from Novosibirsk 'the violin became a drug very soon. I needed the sensations of the stage, the excitement, the fright.' At 20, success has arrived. Others would have burnt their fingers, he didn't. This makes one curious how this airy, subtle violin, so refined swaying, maintains his ties with earth.

'Being a musician means much suffering. Learning a new score can endanger you, trouble your marks, change your self-confidence. Every time I have the impression to start again at zero.' Maybe that's why he loves to be surrounded with his musician friends, pianist Ralph Gothoni, violinist Anton Barachovsky, and also the fabulous gypsy violinist Roby Lakatos. 'We know each other for a long time already: we have spent many nights playing together in the restaurant in Brussels where he performs.'

Playing in Space

But Vadim Repin is particularly in his element with his friend and compatriot Boris Berezovsky, who he met coincidentally during a festival in Seattle. A very rare understanding, something to which their latest CD testifies. After two preceding recordings for Erato (Prokofiev and Ravel/Medtner), the new CD is designed like a real recital. 'I wanted to offer different images of the 20th century, something like an emotional documentary. Strauss with his expressive and post-romantic side, Stravinsky and his almost mathematic point of view, and Bartok, the composer of folkloristic music. I've tried to transmit the logical construction of a concert to the CD.' The bet has started: Strauss is here interpreted with purity and spontaneity, an exciting sense of colours, a thrilling inspiration, without concessions. Stravinsky demands dynamic without roughness, light without getting faded: music like a purified graph. As for Bartok, the famous Roumanian dances offer here an astounding kaleidoscope of sensations, sounds and scents. The 'dance of the baton' is inventive until the folly in the play between attached and detached bowing.'Pe loc' is deeply poetically played with a luminous and nostalgic exstasy, which hints the desirous and sensual softness of the 'quickened dance', which closes the circle. The whole is played in the splendour of his 'pianist brother' Boris Berezovsky.

Certainly Vadim Repin has been compared with his illustrous predecessors like Menuhin, Stern and Oistrach. But his incredible technique, infallible exactness and his tone that seems to come from nowhere do distinguish him indisputable. Sensibility, elegance and subtlety, as well as profundity, generosity and tenderness: there aren't enough adjectives to describe this grand master of the violin. He's now playing on the famous 'Ruby', the magnificent Stradivarius of Sarasate, who has played Lalo's 'Symphonie Espagnol' on it. 'I have it on loan from the Stradivarius Society in Chicago. It's brilliant and many-coloured in the upper register, sonorous and generous in the lower. It's a wonderful compromise between the natural brilliance of a Strad and the sensual power of a Guarneri!'

Is Vadim Repin really amidst us? You can ask yourself that when you know that it's one of his most crazy desires to be the first violinist in space! But don't worry: he also likes tennis, Formule 1, chess, theatre, cigars, good wine and reading books on the beach or in night trains.

Marie-Aude Roux (translation: Corine Rietveld)

Uploaded on February 12, 2001 by A. Kose