MUSIC / Joaquin Achucarro - St John's, Smith Square, London

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The Independent Culture
The highlight of Joaquin Achucarro's BBC lunchtime recital on Monday was Beethoven's Sonata Op 109 in E. Travelling in two radical pages from sunny overlapping semi-quaver ripples to manic yelps with the hands at opposite ends of the keyboard, the first movement called forth from this generally over-cautious player a few heady moments of grand extremism. Among the variations in the last movement, the third, with its two parts spinning furiously off each other, was particularly accomplished.

Achucarro demonstrated the lightness of his fast passagework in the Beethoven Op 34 Variations that opened the programme. He is a well-schooled artist in both the best and the worst sense: accurate, concentrated, conscientiously varied in his pedalling, but tense and rhythmically uninstinctive, a bit ironed-out. The lack of depth in his tone reflects his chosen style: he unfurls the music with heraldic formality rather than plunging in. His slow playing on Monday was often over-slow and brittle.

Brahms's Four Pieces Op 119 started with a melting, soft- grained, almost over-grateful reading of the dissonant first Intermezzo, and built to a stocky, powerful Rhapsody.

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