Classical Review: Crowd control in the picture gallery

Uta Buchheister and Graham Johnson

Wallace Collection

Mikhail Pletnev

Barbican, London

The Long Picture Gallery at the Wallace Collection has a perfect acoustic for piano, though a singer might like a little more resonance. Perhaps, too, the young German mezzo-soprano Uta Buchheister, giving her London debut recital on Sunday morning, needed a more expansive sense of projection. In Brahms's "Auf dem Kirchhofe" the final line seemed to fall a bit short - after all, it is talking about release from the trials of life.

Buchheister is a protegee of Graham Johnson, who here partnered her at the piano, with far too much rubato in Schubert's "Auf dem Wasser zu singen", which needed to flow more naturally. Buchheister is quite new to the profession, having obtained a degree in Philosophy and German at Oxford only three years ago, and although she won "Das Schubert Lied" in Vienna last February, it's early days to assess her.

The voice isn't ravishing, and while that does not necessarily matter, Buchheister's tone tends to get gusty on climactic notes. Still, she held a large audience's attention in a solid 65 minutes of the most searching Lieder, including Schumann's cycle Frauenliebe und -Leben and two appealing songs by the woman whose love inspired it.

The same afternoon at the Barbican, Mikhail Pletnev displayed the art of managing an audience on the most sophisticated level. When latecomers disturbed the continuity of Tchaikovsky's G major Piano Sonata after the most exquisite imaginable exploration of the first movement, Pletnev was not at all put out, but waited patiently, then played the wistful slow movement with equal poise.

At the end of the programme, after announcing Chopin's "black note" study, someone rudely shouted out "What?" and Pletnev simply repeated himself, before scampering through the piece as if it were a delightful Mendelssohn scherzo, treating the delicate descent into the coda, quite shamelessly, as a glissando.

He did play a Mendelssohn scherzo too: a rarely heard Scherzo a capriccio in F sharp minor. He also played two shorter Mendelssohn pieces, an Andante and a Presto agitato, quite perfect in its crystalline brilliance, and the famous Rondo capriccioso, the introduction to which he nonchalantly wrapped up with the merest twitch of his right forefinger, as if choosing a chocolate.

When he had heard enough applause, Pletnev made a tiny reproving gesture with his hand. And he strolled on to the platform as if he might not vouchsafe a performance at all.

But what depths of dynamic perspective he brought to Liszt's Dante Sonata, as if not merely Gustave Dore but Rembrandt himself had illustrated the Inferno. And the first Mephisto Waltz was articulated with a fascinating range of colour. Pletnev never forced the piano tone, for he had more than enough at his disposal, and the thrill lay in sensing strength that was withheld.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?