Seen and Heard
Prokofiev Pieter Wispelwey (cello); Dejan Lazic (piano),
Wigmore Hall, 1 pm, Monday, January 17th, 2005 (CC)
Riding high on his new five-year residency with the London Philharmonic
Orchestra (starting with the Elgar Concerto on February 16th), Pieter
Wispelwey played two of the most demanding cello sonatas from the
Russian repertoire to a large Wigmore audience. Before the concert
we were greeted by two announcements. First, a reversal of the programme
(Shostakovich Op. 40 first, then Prokofiev Op. 119); next, we would
be denied the chance to hear his 'new' 1760 Guadagnini cello (maybe
) Things had to get better, surely?
That Wigmore acoustic seemed about to claim another victim at the
beginning of the Shostakovich, though, with its easeful lyricism
threatened by intermittent muddying of textures. Throughout, it
was the wistful passages that came across most successfully. Pianist
Dejan Lazic impressed in the first movement with his warm sound
and his attentiveness to his partner, yet in the manic revealed
another side, no less appealing, to this player. Lazic in fact seemed
to move closer to Shostakovich than did Wispelwey's rather Europeanised
view, exemplified perfectly by Wispelwey's way with the more desolate
lines. The finale brought with it a sense of Shostakovichian fun,
but fun that did not dare to turn into outrageous slapstick.
The positive side is that one was never just aware of Wispelwey's
virtuosity. This predominantly lyrical take, impressive in parts,
nevertheless left the nagging feeling that we had only been told
half the story.
Shostakovich's Sonata was composed in 1934 and so is a youthful
work. Prokofiev's great C major Sonata, however, dates from 1949.
We are very definitely in late Prokofiev mode (he died in 1953),
as evinced by the dark, sombre, low opening theme (it would be easy
to imagine this more lyrically presented than was Wispelwey's wont).
Implied violence here became extrovert Prokofiev dynamism (a valid
interpretative standpoint, if one that is not so immediately exciting).
Again, it was the quieter, more reflective sections that made for
the more compelling listening. Spiky wit and teased-out melodies
characterised the good-humoured Scherzo. A pity the climax to the
finale (indeed, to the work as a whole) did not carry full weight,
perhaps because of the pair's over-emphasis on one side of the composer's
Intermittently stimulating, then, but ultimately rather disappointing,
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