Wigmore Hall, London
The Argentine-born pianist Nelson Goerner is in his late twenties and got a scholarship to study in Geneva after being spotted by his illustrious compatriot Martha Argerich. His programme, at the Wigmore Hall on Saturday evening, called for all the romantic ardour for which Argerich is famous, with Schumann filling the first half and Chopin's 24 Preludes in the second.
Ardour was certainly Goerner's strong suit, too, though the theme of Schumann's early Abegg Variations has a virginal coyness which is swept away in the sparkling elaborations that follow - rather the kind of display Schumann later reacted against. Goerner brought to them a soft-grained sound and tinkled away delicately in the finale.
Schumann's F sharp minor Sonata, composed only a few years later, is a much more individual piece, and quite crazy, with obsessively repeated rhythms in the first movement and sudden spurts of speed which are then brought to heel. Goerner threw himself into all this courageously, shaping the grandiose introduction with considerable freedom but still holding it together, then attacking the main Allegro with real intensity and lavishing expressive weight on a languorous left hand in the relaxed passages. The limpid Aria of the second movement was, perhaps, too agonised, but the following Scherzo was splendidly fiery, and the quixotic Intermezzo which cuts it short came off successfully because Goerner played it very passionately; nor did he seem to have a single doubt about the recitative, where Schumann takes a leaf out of Beethoven's book. In the glorious final movement Goerner made the most of extremes of volume, and so sacrificed a degree of clarity. His attack wasn't always ideally clean. Still, he certainly showed courage, and there's no point in even thinking of this very difficult work if you haven't got it.
How do you characterise a performance of Chopin's compendious cycle of 24 Preludes? In general, I'd say that Goerner didn't dally in the slower pieces, but favoured a sense of motion - the E minor piece was no less expressive for that, and refreshingly simple - and that he listened for a rich sonority rather than detail in the textures, so that the sound sometimes became stodgy and his "voicing", or balance of strands, seemed crude. He may have miscalculated the way in which the piano speaks in this hall. The epic A flat Prelude was disappointing - too crudely gushing - but, against that, the elegant little A major piece was transformed by subtle little hastenings at the end of each phrase, from a prim Minuet to something altogether individual.
As two encores, Nelson Goerner played Chopin's A minor Mazurka, Op 59 No 1, and, without any sign of flagging, the "Revolutionary" Study, which you can hear in next Saturday's Radio 3 repeat of the BBC lunchtime recital which Goerner gave yesterday.Reuse content