S&H Concert review

Lachenmann & Schumann Nicolas Hodges (piano): Purcell Room, 30 April 2001 (MB)

This was a typically imaginative programme from Nicolas Hodges, and one that cast a spellbinding sound world over proceedings. If the Lachenmann 'sonata' had been programmed for its undoubted hypnotic strengths, then Hodges generated equal hypnotism in his playing of Schumann - particularly the Fantasie op.17 which was given a masterful performance.

Lachenmann's Serynade is a provocative work which marries violent clusters and distilled nervousness with apparent equilibrium. However, there is little that is eclectic about its post-modernist harmony and it by no means exhausts the possibilities of either the instrument or the pianist's technique. Indeed, its half-hour span can grate slightly - the work having an almost obsessive desire to hypnotise the listener with endlessly repeated chords. The sustained use of different keys and the various pedal techniques encourage the mood of hypnotism - and the piece almost works in removing the listener from the conscious world. Hodges' playing was faultless and he brought transcendent colour to his tone.

Whilst Hodges' displayed no lack of involvement in the Lachenmann he was more persuasive in Schumann. The Arabeske op.18 is dark in colour, the pianist's hands predominantly playing only on the lower half of the keyboard. There were some beautiful dynamic touches - for example, Hodges' fingers caressing, like paws, the notes where Schumann had indicated p, and exploding with a tiger's power to the bass clusters. In the longer Fantasie he worked wonders with Schumann's imagist writing. There was much beauty of phrasing and panache to the virtuoso setting of the second movement, which momentarily broke the trance he had carefully constructed throughout its development. The poetry and lyricism given to the work were instinctive, although the playing appeared unusually direct for Schumann. If the mood gestured unmistakably towards restrained passion this seemed right for the moment. If there was one fault it is his tendency to over-pedal and this was occasionally intrusive in both Schumann works. A fine recital.

Marc Bridle

Nicolas Hodges plays Schumann and Boehmer on 20 May 2001 at the Purcell Room

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