Music: A Polonaise without Fantasie/Bernard d'Ascoli/Wigmore Hall
Thursday 05 January 1995
The introduction was fairly commanding, but the Polonaise proper, although warmly articulated, lacked colour and panache: it was too strait-laced, more a formal statement than the swaggering, heroic dance-form we know from other interpreters. The middle
section, though, was thoughtfully surveyed, the ensuing storm of trills well handled, and when the crowning peroration finally arrived, the structural logic of D'Ascoli's vision hit home with the appropriate weight, warmth and feeling of exultation.
Next came a quartet of Mazurkas, all composed during the same period (1845-6): the three pieces Op 59 and the celebrated A minor, Op 67 No4. Here D'Ascoli's cosseting touch and artful rubato paid high dividends: he had the measure of the music's eleganc e , sophistication and shifting perspectives; and he could be strongly assertive, too - as in the A flat major. And when it came to the majestic Barcarolle, D'Ascoli refused to rock the boat with excessive rubato; rather, he would modulate his tone accordi ng to the changing complexion of Chopin's harmonies, while the music's crucial bass-line was kept securely within earshot.
Then came two of the greatest Nocturnes, the B major and E major that share Opus 62, the former so full of fantastical pianistic incident, the latter, broad, ballade-like, and warmly played. D'Ascoli seemed more in his element here than anywhere else in the programme, certainly than in the Waltzes (Op 64, Nos 1-3) which, although admirably fluid and unfussy, seemed to me rather unmemorable.
lt was a long but rewarding first half, and the audience loved it. After the interval, D'Ascoli returned with another five Mazurkas, the three Op 63s and one each from Op 68 and Op 67. Once again, the requisite lilt was there, and the tone was nicely graded.
The real test, though, was still in store: Chopin's magnum opus, his Third Sonata. The first movement went reasonably well, with some felicitous phrasing and rather more in the way of dynamic inflexion than we heard in the Polonaise-Fantasie. But althou g h there were many fine moments to savour, I would have welcomed a stronger line and a tighter grip between individual episodes. The Scherzo's trio was very well focused, the Largo had an almost Brahmsian glow and the Finale was both thrilling and unmista kably conclusive. The audience was delighted and D'Ascoli responded with three encores, including the famous E flat Nocturne and the stormy Etude, Op 10 No 4, reminders both of Chopin's brilliant youth and of his own.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 British tourists 'murdered' in Thailand: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Vivienne Westwood says 'Yes' to Scottish Independence by declaring: 'I hate England'
- 3 Welcome to Cameroon, where drinking Baileys can lead to imprisonment
- 4 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 5 Vogue under fire for 'Big Booty' article
Fifty Shades of Grey movie: New picture of Anastasia Steele unveiled
X Factor 2014 review: Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole clash over Rouge Kiss
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
Exhibit B: 'Racist' human zoo installation criticised by protesters outside the Barbican
Doctor Who, Listen, review: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
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
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Salmond accused of laughing off national debt with ‘what are they going to do: invade?’ joke