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S & H Concert Review

S & H Concert Review

Schumann, Debussy, Stravinsky. Nelson Goerner (piano). Wigmore Hall, Saturday, December 28th, 2002 (CC)


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.

Colin Clarke

 


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