Andew Wilde, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Click to follow

Wilde by name and, to some extent, by nature. Andrew Wilde has put on a good deal of weight since his last QEH recital, a rather unsettled evening with conspicuous memory lapses. Last week, he was more secure but showed he still likes to live dangerously, choosing, for the first half, two works that are notoriously difficult to sustain because of their spaciousness and the piano's inability to change the sound of a note once it has been played. Pianists may wiggle their finger in a vain imitation of string vibrato, or raise their elbow to suggest the tone blooming, but only the right pedal can add a bit of sympathetic resonance, and the rest is beyond the player's control.

Mozart's Adagio in B minor is a long sonata-form movement with the character of an aria, or even a more extended vocal scena, and Wilde projected it strongly, with finely chiselled sensitivity. It was, perhaps, the most perfect thing he did, beautifully poised despite a gale of coughing from the audience.

The opening movement of Schubert's G major Sonata is based on a slowly rocking rhythm, with the first chord held so long that a sense of movement is almost suspended. If the image of a boat comes to mind, it is certainly rocked a good deal during the piece, and Wilde's wayward pulse sometimes threatened to capsize it altogether, though he also gave the music grandeur and a sense of reserved strength.

His rhythm was also very flexible in the second movement, though he seemed more at ease here, but you could never have danced to his playing of the Minuet third movement, and he was so leisurely in the Trio section, it was as though his battery was running down. It was disconcerting, too, when he launched the final Rondo without a pause. If the jolly main theme had little sense of innocent humour, he did make the most of Schubert's surprises as well as the richness of the minor-mode passages. In many ways, an intriguing performance.

The second half was all Chopin. The First Ballade was well shaped and given tremendous grandeur, but the Berceuse was too erratic, sometimes too hasty, to be an effective lullaby. In the opening sections of the Fourth Ballade, Wilde's spontaneity encouraged one to live for the moment, but he later built up momentum, and the florid vocal section preceding the climax travelled unusually swiftly. Some passages were overpedalled for this resonant hall, and the final section was wildly swaggering, if accurate.

But the evening wasn't without a few dropped stitches, and as with most pianists, the left hand was the first to go, so that the harmony was distorted. That's not only an accident of nature (whether you are ambidextrous or not) but of education (how you "think" music from the bass upwards). Toward the end of the Second Scherzo, Wilde lost clarity by getting overexcited and exaggerating points of emphasis. Still, he is nothing if not unpredictable, and to prove it, he gave an extraordinarily gusty account of Chopin's C minor Mazurka as an encore.