programming here from Serkin. This 1973 recital reflected his
enthusiasm for Bach - apparently he introduced Schoenberg to
this work - while also including the music of another of his
enthusiasms, Max Reger.
Bach is in fact an oasis of calm. To be able to project this
level of intimate calm to an acoustic space as large as Londonís
RFH is impressive indeed. There is a hypnotic purity of thought
to the performance that is quite remarkable.
to Regerís Variations and Fugue on a theme of Bach is
a logical progression. BBC Legends has usefully tracked each
variation. The piece is a huge canvas in Serkinís hands. All
aspects of Regerís straitlaced seriousness of intent and of
his harmonies seem entirely right. Whatís more, the scale of
Regerís conception is entirely in accord with Serkinís ability
to project the larger canvas; not to mention his sometimes absolutely
huge sound! In fact, this would be the ideal introduction to
Reger or anyone wishing to get to know his music. A next step
might be Mark Latimerís disc on Warner
Beethoven is legendary and these BBC performances help to flesh
out his discography. In 2005 I reviewed a two-disc Music
& Arts set that included a phenomenal 1952 Columbia
Waldstein. There was no Op. 78, though. Serkinís approach
is interesting in that he sets out to create true contrasts
between the workís two movements. One could easily guess the
Ďma non troppoí qualifier to the first movementís allegro. This
sets the ultra quick-fire second movement (ĎAllegro vivaceí)
into high relief. Magnificent.
live Waldstein is extremely assured. The concentration
involved in the first movement is almost palpable, the structural
grasp almost without parallel. It is also remarkably technically
accurate. The lead-in to the finale is exquisitely managed,
while there are some truly beautiful shadings of tone in the
finale. The gorgeous sonorities are expertly controlled.
must have been a very special night on the South Bank. Great
pianism meets great programming Ė what more could one have asked?.
Perhaps to have the evening preserved. So it is that we should
count ourselves lucky to hear this. The BBC Legends series continues
to fascinate and stimulate.