Music: Chopin recitals; Wigmore Hall; City of London Festival

John Cage said he disliked recording after he heard a child at a concert complain that a performance "wasn't like the disc". Having made such a superlative one of Chopin's four Ballades, Nikolai Demidenko had a lot to live up to in his Wigmore Hall recital on 6 July. It was a pity the audience only clapped after the first Ballade, for hearing all four in succession is a bit like having lamb, beef, pork and veal - though not necessarily in that order - in one meal. Still, they were remarkable performances even with the disc in mind, and the finest Ballade, the fourth, also drew the most from Demidenko. He is one of the very few pianists to slip into the opening straight out of the blue - as daring a way to begin as it is unobtrusive. He's also one of the few to sustain the bass octave beneath the pianissimo chords preceding the stormy final section, though it's a traditional, and highly effective, liberty.

The programme had the look of a catalogue, for before the interval, Demidenko played the first two sonatas. The First Sonata, dating from Chopin's student days, is a courtly piece, whose outer movements can sound doggedly elaborated, and did on this occasion, partly because Demidenko didn't sustain his tempi firmly. The B flat minor Sonata was much more authoritative. He launched the first movement splendidly, with urgent directness; but then he got rather coy about the second subject, which was too slow and retiring, and fancily re-voiced to deprive the top line of its due weight. He paced the development with assurance, as well as a certain reserve, measuring the climax, and holding back adrenalin for the coda.

In the cruelly challenging Scherzo, Demidenko booted some grace notes with uncharacteristic clumsiness, and the Funeral March was a bit too slow. But the brief finale was beautifully played, like a feathery whisper, with barely perceptible dabs of the pedal.

Maria Joao Pires replaced the Chopin advertised in her City of London Festival recital last Tuesday with Schubert. Her approach to Schubert's first Impromptu was turbulent, the pulse constantly tugged this way and that. The second impromptu hardly allowed room for the same licence, though why no one clapped, as if the piece were a mere interlude before Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata, is a mystery. An artist really needs to give an audience its cues. Undaunted, Pires played the Appassionata with fiery spirit, though keeping the middle movement quite lightweight.

Such relative simplicity wasn't characteristic, because Pires is very much concerned with detailed expressive effects, and makes the most of light and shade, sometimes at the expense of a larger sense of form. She commands a wide range of colour, and there were lovely melting effects in the first movement of Schubert's B flat Sonata - for instance, in the furthest reaches of the development. But the way she squeezed the music for every imaginable nuance was fussy rather than profound, and the rhythm of the slow movement was wrung to the point of distortion, with the left hand often reduced to a mumble - like many pianists, she concentrates unduly on her right. Her encore, Schubert's G flat Impromptu, sweetly played, almost as if it had words, went some way towards releasing accumulated tension.

Liszt's great rival, Sigismond Thalberg, shouted all the way home after hearing Chopin play, because he complained he'd heard nothing but pianissimo all evening. No chance of that after Peter Donohoe's Chopin recital at the Wigmore on Saturday, when he played the Second and Third Sonatas, the third Scherzo, some Nocturnes, Waltzes and the Berceuse. His plain speaking was admirable in its way, and he even transformed that rather bald tune in the middle of the Second Sonata's Funeral March into something noble. But Nocturnes were definitely aimed at those allergic to perfumed playing and the Waltzes seemed basic.


Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
Arts and Entertainment
Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Blackberry Wine, wrote a blog post attacking the app and questioning its apparent 'strong Christian bias'
Arts and Entertainment
Leading light: Sharma in London

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
Brooke Magnanti believes her reputation has been damaged by the claim
Arts and Entertainment
A large fire has broken out in London's historic Battersea Arts Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith, MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn and Joanna Vanderham as Katherine McVitie in Banished
tvReview: Despite the gritty setting, this drama is as fluffy and soppy as a soap opera
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and co-director Richard Glatzer, standing, on the set during the filming of ‘Still Alice’ in New York
Arts and Entertainment
Great British Sewing Bee finalist Matt Chapple
tvReview: He wowed the judges with an avant garde dress
Arts and Entertainment
Driven to the edge: 'Top Gear' producer Oisin Tymon is said to have had a row with Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Nazi officer Matthias Schoenaerts embarks on an affair with married French woman Michelle Williams in 'Suite Francaise'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Prime movers: Caitriona Balfe (centre) and the cast of Outlander
Feasting with panthers: Keynes
Arts and Entertainment
Strung out: Mumford & Sons
Arts and Entertainment
Avant-garde: Bjork
Arts and Entertainment
Despite a decade of reform, prosecutions and convictions of rape has remained consistently low
arts + entsAcademic and author Joanna Bourke in warning to arts world
Arts and Entertainment
Electro Velvet, made up of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas, will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May