Miklos Perenyi/ Andras Schiff, Wigmore Hall
Friday 02 July 2010
With his waistcoat and tails, watch-chain, and cloud of grey curls, Andras Schiff walks on stage like a survivor from Imperial Vienna, but his cellist colleague Miklos Perenyi is the pointer to this concert’s real provenance.
Perenyi studied and now teaches at the conservatoire in Budapest which Liszt founded, where Bartok taught, and where Mahler, Strauss, and Puccini bestowed their presence; Schiff studied there too, before making his home in London. The Ferenc Liszt Academy is a living link back to the First Viennese School, and to Beethoven in particular, and Perenyi and Schiff embody that link.
This concert represented the second half of their survey of Beethoven’s complete oeuvre for cello and piano. If that oeuvre seems small, it’s worth remembering that until Beethoven had the idea, nobody of any importance had dreamed of yoking these instruments together. The five sonatas he composed for them spanned his career, and also the period in which the piano was evolving at its fastest. When he wrote his first cello sonata, that instrument’s middle-range sonority drowned the delicate sound of the eighteenth-century piano. But by the time he wrote his last, the balance was reversed, with the big new pianos drowning the strings.
Following an early sonata with a late one was the perfect way to illustrate Beethoven’s growing mastery of this instrumental mix. Written when he was 26, the G minor sonata is in its own way a masterpiece, which these musicians delivered with burning conviction, playing with silence in the Adagio, and letting the Allegro conjure up a towering edifice of sound. The Sonata in D, composed when Beethoven was 45, has the density of all his late work, and its musical thought is tightly-knotted from the start: the tragic grandeur of the middle movement was magnificently realised, as was the whirling complexity of the fugue.
If Schiff now spends more time playing chamber music than playing solo, that is our gain, as he’s one of the most collegial and responsive virtuosi in the business; the symbiosis he’s achieved with Perenyi’s dark warmth can be electrifying, as they demonstrated with the rest of their programme. Beethoven’s variations on Handel’s ‘Maccabeus’ march came in gorgeous apparel, while his Mozart ones had a truly Mozartean charm. Bravo, Budapest.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Amy Winehouse statue unveiled in Camden
- 2 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 3 George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
- 4 Headaches, fry ups, and hair of the dog - why do we get hangovers, and is there such thing as a 'cure'?
- 5 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained in Los Angeles after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Scottish independence: Britain faces 'constitutional crisis' at next election
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly