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Seen and Heard Recital Review

Bach, Lutoslawski, Brahms Heinrich Schiff (cello); Roger Vignoles (piano), 1pm, 25 April, 2005 (CC)

This was a nicely varied programme, acting as part of the celebrations for Roger Vignoles’ sixtieth (unbelievable though it may seem). Strange then, given the apparent importance of Vignoles, that he was absent from the stage for the first work (Bach’s First Solo Cello Suite in G, BWV1007). Schiff, who has recorded the Bach Suites for EMI (5 865342), gave a reading notable for its light touch and its agility, the only, very occasional, awkward passages coming during the Courante. Schiff imbued the stately Sarabande with dignity and evidently had great fun in the final Gigue. And so did we.

This was not a capacity audience. Perhaps the Lutoslawski scared some off. The Grave (a 1981 work subtitled ‘Metamorphoses’, for cello and piano) actually only lasts around six minutes but is masterly. Curving registrally upwards from the very depths of both instruments to become really quite active, it represented perhaps an outing into modernist music that Vignoles is not readily associated with.

All of which was essentially preparation for the meat course of the lunch, Brahms’ magnificent second Cello Sonata in F, Op. 99 of 1886. Here, indeed, Vignoles came into his own, the piano suddenly massively sonorous, entirely in keeping with the Romantic mentality of this work. Maybe Schiff was slightly less at home here (a surprise as he has recorded both sonatas for Philips, 456 402-2 – note, this disc may not be currently available). However, both players did manage to set up moments of real peace and things improved mightily for the heartfelt slow movement (Adagio affetuoso), wherein Schiff ‘sang’ with great intensity in the cello’s higher reaches. It was Vignoles, though, who provided the Brahmsian fire for the Scherzo, and indeed who provided most moments of magic (great staccato) in the finale.

It would appear, then, that the concert achieved its aim - this was Vignoles’ concert, not Schiff’s. He is a delight to listen to, an accompanist and musician of the very first rank.


Colin Clarke



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