clearly draws in the crowds – sold out and
with a healthy queue for returns, his programme
of Schumann and Schubert promised much. Interesting
juxtapositions of Schumanniana in the first
half prefaced one of the greatest challenges
of the entire piano literature – Schubert’s
great B flat Sonata, D960, a piece that is
effectively a burial ground for many aspiring
first unexpected aspect of this recital was
to play the whole first half - three separate
opuses plus one lone Novelette - without
a break for applause (in fact, without a break
even for seasonal coughing). Not that this
was all massively familiar fare, either –
the Three Romances and the Four
Pieces that surrounded the well-known
Arabeske are hardly common recital
material. It did help the concentration not
to have the recital sectionalised by intrusive
applause – but this was hardly the revelation
of the recent ABQ
concert, where they presented three Webern
opuses as a single quartet.
first of the Three Romances, Op. 28
(1839) began well, with nice contrasts and
good treble projection. In a pre-concert discussion,
Andsnes had claimed most pianists play too
loudly at the Wigmore, and his dynamic range
did indeed suit the hall. Yet this was not
music caught on the wing. Everything was carefully
considered (some lumpy legato in the second
Romance notwithstanding). There were signs
of true identification coming through in the
quirky, jerky, typically Schumannesque rhythms
of the third Romance.
Arabesque in C, Op. 18 (1839) was better,
flighty yet intimate.
Four Pieces, Op. 32 (1838-9) are interesting.
Schumann’s idea of a ‘Romance’ here verges
on the misnomer. Unfortunately, the Gigue
suffered from muddying as lines accrued. The
Novelette in D, Op. 21 No.5 (1838)
was perhaps the finest Schumann performance
of the evening, the darker shadings well projected
and a left-hand melody positively Lied-like.
Sonata in B flat, D960 is one of Schubert’s
most magnificent creations. It was interesting
that Andsnes identified Richter as amongst
his revered pianists in the pre-concert discussion
as Richter’s interpretation of this Sonata
was masterly (try the Regis
incarnation). But Richter could convey intense
concentration, the sort that on occasion can
make time stand still. Not so Andsnes. One
could easily admire the invitingly warm sound
of the opening and the nicely-weighted chordings.
Yet the famous left-hand trill had not a shred
of the ominous about it. Emphasising the disjunct
side of Schubert is all very well if it comes
within the umbrella of an over-arching harmonic
concept, but Andsnes lost this latter aspect.
failings were highlighted in the desolate
Andante sostenuto. He attempted to project
the bleak nature of this movement, but without
the maturity to enter this very private musical
world. The inevitable happened and the musical
argument began to threaten to fall apart.
Hardly surprisingly, the more approachable
Scherzo came off better, even though any element
of jollity was absent. Nice to hear the interruptive
gestures of the finale with the notes played
exactly together, but in the final analysis
it was not hugely involving. Which just about
sums up the whole performance, really.
brief Schumann encore (from Faschingsschwank
aus Wien, Op. 26) led to the best of the
recital – Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse,
played with an aplomb that had been previously
absent. There is hope yet.
concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on
June 28th at 7.30pm