The young Argentinian pianist Nelson Goerner has obviously
built up quite a following if the packed out audience at the Wigmore
is anything to go by. This was an ambitious programme - just scheduling
Stravinsky's 'Petrushka' pieces alone shows bravery, and Debussy's 'Etudes'
pose fearsome tonal challenges.
An all-Schumann first half established Goerner's credentials.
In the C major Arabesque of 1838/9, Goerner refused to over-pedal and
was commendably eager to lay the quirky side of Schumann's writing bare.
However, some over-projected octaves (over-projection substituting for
expression) gave a clue that Goerner was not entirely inside this music's
highly individual world.
The Fantasy, Op. 17 (1836-8) reiterated Goerner's technical
security in this repertoire (only some fearsome passages in the second
movement and occasional messiness in busier textures marring the overall
effect). The performance opened in the most promising of fashions: pedal
was used judiciously so that the initial paragraphs were not completely
blurred yet still had an authentically Romantic sweep to them. Spontaneity
was high in the earlier stages: only in the last movement, after the
promising, liquid legato of its opening, did some literalism creep in.
To Goerner's credit, he highlighted the more experimental, fragmentary
passages to good effect.
Book II of Debussy's elusive 'Etudes'(1915) never quite
came across as the marvels they are. Despite being delicate and flexible
in 'pour les agréments' and creating luminous textures in 'pour
les arpeges composées', Goerner failed to really delve within
Debussy's world. Perhaps his mind was on the pitfalls of the Stravinsky.
The 'Three Movements from Petrushka' represents one
of the peaks of any pianist's repertoire, and a very forbidding one
at that. The first piece, 'Danse russe' began at an ambitious tempo,
which Goerner kept to (just). Interestingly, some moments appeared distinctly
Debussian. However, Goerner understated the significance of the bitonal
statements in 'Chez Petrushka' and the last movement, the grand climax,
was exactly where tension flagged. Sonorities should have been more
massive, and voices occasionally got lost in the general melee. This
felt like a disappointing end to a recital which had yielded much in
its earlier stages.