Vogt has singularly failed to impress me in
the past. His EMI
disc of Brahms seemed to reveal a distinct
impression of skimming the surface of the
music; his live 'Emperor'
with the touring Detroiters in October 2001
at the Royal Festival Hall was again lacking
in depth. It was actually the programming
rather than the pianist that attracted me
to the present recital – late Beethoven (Bagatelles,
Op. 126); Janácek’s V mlhách
(In the mists, 1912) and late Brahms
(Op. 119). In the cases of Beethoven and Brahms,
these final-period works represent a concentration
of utterance, a concentration of thought that
provides the utmost challenge for both performer
and listener; In the mists is Janácek’s
last major piano work and fully reflects the
intensity of its musical surroundings here.
Op. 126 Bagatelles are actually six
miracles in the distillation of a musical
language. Surprising, perhaps, that Vogt should
launch straight into the first Bagatelle of
the set without settling himself or the audience.
His playing did, indeed, reflect this in its
initial superficiality before he was able
to move more towards a projection of notated
fantasy. His dynamic range is wide, and he
is able to play loudly and forcefully without
indulging in martellato (the fourth
piece demands this ability). Interestingly,
it was this fourth piece that cast further
doubts – the return of the first section was
significantly lower in voltage than the opening
sally, significantly lower in confidence.
However, by the time of the manic Jekyll-and-Hyde
schizophrenia of the sixth Bagatelle,
which juxtaposes Presto with Andante amabile,
Vogt was much closer to Beethoven – but by
then it was time for the challenge of Janácek.
the Mists is Janácek’s last major
piano work. Here Vogt seemed to revel in the
dark sounds and huge contrasts, not to mention
the explosions (yet in those he needed more
depth of tone). His account had moments of
real vision (the ‘simple’ folk-theme-like
parts were particularly impressive), but it
failed to eclipse memories of Andras
this same venue. Vogt’s pianissimi
explained why – quiet and marvellously controlled,
they nevertheless failed to drag the audience
into Janácek’s elusive thoughts.
Brahms Klavierstücke, Op. 119,
in a performance that seemed in the main to
go deeper than his above-mentioned EMI Brahms
recording (there of the F minor Sonata and
the Ballades). The first piece of Op.
119 was revealed as the masterpiece of voice-leading
it is; out of the shifting harmonies of the
second emerged a sepia-tinged Viennese waltz;
the third included laughing staccati.
Only the fourth piece lacked the final ounce
of muscular strength (perhaps Vogt was over-compensating
for the hall’s acoustic?). I have yet to hear
Vogt’s EMI recording of Brahms Opp. 116-119
(5 57543 2) – it should, I believe, be an
Vogt’s playing does seem to have moved on
from the sporadic literalism of the past few
years. It is to be hoped that Vogt will continue
to grow as an artist.