Twenty-five-year-old Daniel Grimwood walked on to the Wigmore Hall stage almost perkily, grinning at his friends in the front row. He began his recital last Thursday with equal boldness, etching the dynamic contrasts of Mozart's D major Sonata, K311, with a vivid sense of the impact that the Mannheim orchestra – specialising in artistic shock effects – had on Mozart just before he wrote it. At the keyboard, Grimwood's manner was easy, his back straight, and his action apparently effortless; his touch was so light that he almost let the piano play itself.
And in Liszt's arrangement of Hummel's Septet, it very nearly ran away with him. Liszt did not overload the pianist, for that was already done by Hummel, one of the greatest ivory-ticklers of his day. (The original Septet combines piano with wind and string instruments.) In the first movement, Hummel seems to be snatching at every stray butterfly to cross his path, but the scherzo second movement is as concise as it is delightful, and Grimwood played it with the most considerate delicacy.
Indeed, delicacy is clearly one of Grimwood's most valuable and personal features, and much in Felix Blumenfeld's Variations caractéristiques almost vanished before reaching the back row of the stalls, though there was plenty of strong playing, too. But little opportunity for depth until Chopin's Polonaise-Fantaisie.
Grimwood took an unusually searching, reflective view of this challenging piece, drawing the listener in with a sense of wonder as to what was coming next and paying particular attention to the way sounds ended, not just how they began. If the piece seemed somehow incomplete, that is perhaps an essential part of its poetic conception, though Grimwood was also a bit reticent in committing himself to a singing line.
Yet in Liszt's first Liebesträume, he allowed the melody to breathe comfortably against the most delicate background. And in the second Liebesträume he was extremely sensitive to resonance, while from the affectionate yet unsentimental way he played the third, most famous, piece of the set, you would never have known it was one of the most hackneyed works in the repertoire.
Inevitably, Grimwood chose a showpiece to end, though Liszt's second Polonaise didn't seem quite as naturally his element, and it was as well he added Chopin's soothing Berceuse as an encore. That was more like it.
LEONARD SALZEDO COMMEMORATIVE CONCERT
IF MAKING music with friends is the essence of chamber concerts, this was perfectly expressed by the coming together of musicians to celebrate the life and work of Leonard Salzedo, who died last year at the age of 79. A prolific composer who made distinguished contributions to the worlds of ballet and cinema, Salzedo also crafted some highly idiomatic works for a wide variety of solo instruments. His 143 opus numbers include 17 ballet scores and 10 string quartets, and reveal a particular fondness for brass and percussion.
Undoubtedly the most famous notes he ever penned come from the opening bars of his Divertimento for three trumpets and three trombones. For 20 years, this brief fanfare introduced the Open University programmes. There is much more to the Divertimento than this, however, as the musicians of Savage Brass ably demonstrated. The Prelude develops the fanfare with an up-tempo West Indian rhythm, and the work also features a quicksilver scherzo, an atmospherically muted Interlude, and concludes with a quirky march of ready wit and good humour. Savage Brass also bravely tackled the exhilarating polyrhythms of the Toccata for Brass Quintet and the Variations and Fugue on a theme of Rossini, one of Salzedo's last works, which found the composer's sense of fun still very much in evidence, especially in his droll use of the tuba.
Other highlights included the expressive simplicity of The Solitary Song, as given by mezzo-soprano Alison Young. What a pity Salzedo did not turn his considerable lyrical gifts towards writing operas. Leslie Howard gave a sensitively imaginative account of Pardes Rimonim, four improvisations for solo piano that juxtaposed intense, Messiaen-like chords with a free, improvisatory quality encouraged by the absence of bar-lines in the score.
The concert finished with a deeply committed performance by the Archaeus Quartet, of the String Quartet no 7, written in memory of the composer's father. The expressive opening Moderato, part-lament, part-joyful reminiscence, was followed by a dynamically varied waltz. An incantatory Sephardic melody featured in the Lento, declaimed by solo cello against a slowly shifting backdrop of muzzy scalic passages, like an intimate memory blurred by hazy recollection. The concluding moto perpetuo was propelled by a heavily accented drive. Indeed, the string writing throughout betrayed the hand of an experienced orchestral violinist.
A welcome opportunity to dip into Leonard Salzedo's extensive chamber output, the commemorative concert made one hungry to hear large-scale pieces such as the profoundly personal orchestral Requiem Sine Voxibus, still awaiting its premiere. His works are distinguished by a directness of expression fuelled by an inherent rhythmic dynamism springing from Hispanic roots. It would be good to have an opportunity to explore further the legacy of this composer who communicates an insider's knowledge of the diverse forces for which he writes.Reuse content