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S & H Concert Review

Brahms, Almeida Prado, Albeniz, Prokofiev. Eduardo Monteiro (piano), Wigmore Hall, Friday January 10th 2003 (CC)


Brazilian pianist Eduardo Monteiro's ambitious programming brought a goodly crowd to the Wigmore. The music of four well-contrasted composers brought challenges both to performer and to audience; it is a tribute to Monteiro that the time seemed to fly by, so absorbing was the experience.

The Four Ballades, Op. 10 began the concert. No. 1, inspired by the Scottish ballad, 'Edward', and full of dramatic tension, was generally a success. The Andante first section flowed, the chording was rich, and the more stormy middle section demonstrated a firm grasp of harmonic direction. Only a tendency to rush unnecessarily when the excitement mounted distracted from an otherwise noble conception. Tender whisperings characterised the second, while the third ballade provides the necessary rhythmic contrast.

The move to the twentieth century was an abrupt one. Jose Antonio Rezende de Almeida Prado (born in 1943) is a prolific Brazilian composer who, from 1969 to 1973, studied with Ligeti and Foss (in Darmstadt) and with Messiaen and Nadia Boulanger (in Paris). His piece, 'Cartas Celestes' (Celestial Charts) dates from 1973 and was intended originally for a multimedia show in a planetarium as a musical description of the night sky in the southern hemisphere between August and September. However, it has gained acceptance as a concert piece in its own right.

Monteiro presented Almeida Prado's pointillism unapologetically and (impressively) played the piece by memory. Monteiro, in his programme note for this piece, states that, 'the piece opens with the blinding light of the tropical sun': unfortunately that was hardly the impression here. Having said that, Monteiro's evocation of the first star, Vesper (Venus) was appropriately glassy, cold and distant. Almeida Prado uses evocations of Meteors and a musical impression of 'Globular Cluster Messier 13' as the equivalents to the 'Promenade' in Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition', to articulate the structure of the piece. There was no doubting either the fertility of the composer's imagination, nor Monteiro's devotion to his cause. Although possibly over-long, a re-hearing of this piece would be most welcome.

Volume One of Albeniz's 'Iberia' brought us back in to more familiar waters. Monteiro sounded very much at home here, especially in the quasi-improvisatory 'Evocacion'. If he was on the literal side for 'El Puerto', he articulated 'El Corpus Christi en Sevilla' well (just that extra bit of involvement would have been welcome). Most impressive of all, though, was Monteiro's performance of Prokofiev's mighty Eighth Piano Sonata (1944), the final 'War' Sonata. It is true that there was a hefty harmonic/gestural shift here between these pieces, but Monteiro managed it well, even if it took him a couple of minutes to enter into Prokofiev's highly individual world. The bleak mood and concentrated mode of utterance was well sustained, and the bittersweet nostalgia of the second movement (Andante sognando) was caught perfectly. Confidence flowed out of Monteiro's final movement, 'Vivace'. This was a fine performance from an artist I would very much like to hear more of. The encore (Villa-Lobos) was a melancholy, and lovely, close to the evening.

Colin Clarke


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