Lollipops all round
London recitals South Bank / Wigmore
Friday 31 March 1995
For the second half, Hough had chosen music ideally matched to his gifts of tonal finesse and athletic precision. After Mozart's Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je maman?", which were prim and discreetly soft-pedalled, Rachmaninov's Humoresque came up like a newly restored painting, with clean, shining sound and razor-sharp articulation.
Then there was Rachmaninov's Mlodie and another Humoresque, by Tchaikovsky, as well as his long and moody Dumka. But the best was still to come. In Rachmaninov's expanded arrangement of Kreisler's Leideslied, Hough irresistibly evoked a ballroom dancer's poise and timing, and there aren't enough superlatives to describe the way he played Earl Wild's arrangement of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Little Swans" from Swan Lake, or his own adaptation of Pabst's Concert Paraphrase on The Sleeping Beauty. This was playing not just of technical brilliance but thrilling expressive vividness.
Not content with all that, Hough added four delicious encores. After each one, he would bow in a very proper manner, whiz off stage, then whiz back again with a faint smile, as if to say, "I bet you weren't expecting this." Showmanship at its most debonair.
With his neat beard, waistcoat and fob, his graceful formality of manner, the American violinist Aaron Rosand, returning to Britain after many years in a recital at the Wigmore Hall on Tuesday, resembled a distinguished doctor in an Edith Wharton novel. Though Rosand is in his prime, his programme choice and the easy warmth of his playing recalled the days of Fritz Kreisler. There weren't Kreisler's little scoops, but there was a similar lusciousness of tone, a frankness of emotion and romantic breadth of phrasing.
An 18th-century sonata by Pasquali was realised with a rather glum piano accompaniment in an edition by Ysae. Three Heifetz arrangements - an abbreviated selection of Ravel's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, Manuel Ponce's "Estrellita" and Khachaturian's Sabre Dance - showed off Rosand's immaculate mastery of leaps, octaves, pizzicato and silvery harmonics, sometimes in close succession. But he always gave himself time to extract the maximum beauty from every sound, without vulgarity or aggressiveness. After Wieniawski's Souvenir de Moscou came a string of encores ending with Sarasate's Malaguea, which drove the audience wild but left Rosand and his solid accompanist Geir Henning Braaten quite unruffled.
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