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Beethoven: Till Fellner (piano) Wigmore Hall, London, 20.10.2009 (CC)

Till Fellner’s Beethoven cycle continued with a group of five varied sonatas. Fellner is a fine player. His teachers include Helene Sedo-Stadler in Vienna and Alfred Brendel. Fellner is intensely musical and time and time again it was good to be reminded that all really is not lost: true talent is indeed alive and well.

The evening opened with the slight G-major, Op. 79 (1809), actually more of a sonatina. The initial Presto alla tedesca was not only a true presto but was delivered with true beauty of sound. There was no sense of rush, despite the prevailing velocity. Never did one feel this was a “lesser” sonata of the canon. The Andante held profundity as well as melancholy, while the finale held humour that surely would have made Brendel proud. 

The two-movement F sharp Sonata, Op. 78 held surprises, not least the “Lebewohl”-like opening, delivered boldly. Fellner’s articulation is remarkably clean (and even felt so at the very back of the Wigmore); above and beyond that is his imagination (descending scales sounding like the peal of bells, for example). The exploratory nature of the first movement’s coda was magnificently honoured. Confidence shone through the performance of the finale. The so-called ‘Pastoral’ Sonata (D-major, Op. 28) rounded off the well-filled first half. The fast speed for the first movement did not preclude clarity of voice-leading. This was a beautifully considered reading. Chord voicing, too, was excellent. The true andante for the second movement felt the perfect speed. Fellner gave great power to the single line, and there was a simply superb sense of the exploration of possibilities.

Just two sonatas in the second part, the compact E-minor, Op. 90 and the expansive E-flat, Op. 7. The works complement each other beautifully. The way that Fellner includes a deliberate hardening of tone in his pallette (which many pianists shy away from) is most impressive. The reading of Op. 90 was of a distinctly masculine bias. This bodes well for the late sonatas. Quite an achievement, too, to be so sprightly in the initial Allegro molto e con brio (including repeat) and then invoke such depth in the Largo (with rests impeccably timed), There was the distinct impression that this sonata included a huge emotional range, and certainly more than one expected. A remarkable end to a remarkable evening.

This concert will be broadcast on Radio 3 at 7pm on November 18th, 2009. Interestingly, back in March 2003, I did not warm to Fellner’s Beethoven Third at all. The signs are that a lot of maturing has been going on in the interim period.

Colin Clarke 


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