Thomas Rann / Wu Qian, Wigmore Hall, London

By Annette Morreau
Monday 02 June 2008 11:45

Agents taking on young artists have a responsibility to guide in the timing of debut recitals, particularly in this country. The standard of playing heard almost daily – from, for instance, the BBC Young Generation Artists – sets a level of performance that cannot be ignored, especially if a young artist is making a debut at the Wigmore Hall.

The Australian cellist Thomas Rann, despite a string of awards and scholarships, was simply not ready to make his debut in the Wigmore – which is not to say that he does not have the equipment to make a fine cellist.

He chose an enterprising programme that included some of the finest pieces in the cello repertoire as well as the odd curio, such as the American composer George Crumb's Sonata for Solo Cello, with which the recital began. In retrospect, this piece probably suited Rann best, although as a big, unaccompanied work, it seemed a daunting proposition as a starter. Crumb wrote the work in Berlin in 1955 when studying with Boris Blacher. In three movements, the first is characterised by bold pizzicato and double stops (handled deftly by Rann) with a brooding quality of solo line; the second, a gently lilting siciliano with variations, revealed that Rann produces a very good sound from the top string; but the third, in its allegro vivace, was far too approximately played.

Beethoven's Op 102 No 1 followed, with Rann joined by the excellent young Chinese pianist, Wu Qian. This is one of Beethoven's most mysterious works, but Rann doesn't yet have the imagination to project this. Extraordinary moments were not pointed, vibrato did not intensify, lyrical moments were not boldly sung.

Rann's lack of colour in his playing was underlined, in Debussy's sonata, by Qian who relished every nuance of this impressionistic piece.

Peter Sculthorpe's 1979 Requiem for Cello Alone draws on his Australian influences, the vast expanses of the landscape, and melodic fragments of the indigenous Aborigines. Of its six short movements, the Qui Mariam with its passionate, lyrical line over throbbing pizzicato (left hand) was most movingly performed, but Tchaikovsky's melancholic Pezzo Capriccioso and Andante Cantabile again lacked colour and projection, while Martinu's Variations on a theme of Rossini, a set of fireworks, simply failed to ignite.

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