February 21, 2014 7:42 pm

Piotr Anderszewski, Wigmore Hall, London – review

It is always a pleasure when a pianist who is usually heard in large concert venues makes a visit to intimate Wigmore Hall, Daniel Barenboim’s return in 2011 being a particular date to remember. For Piotr Anderszewski, most confiding of today’s leading pianists, it must count as a chance to recreate the domestic music-making atmosphere he seems to crave.

Demand for tickets will doubtless have been high, which is why this Monday recital was repeated on Wednesday. Originally, the programme was to have featured Szymanowski and Bartók, but after a change of mind Anderszewski retreated to his ever central trio of Bach, Beethoven and Schumann (though Bartók survived in his first encore, one of the Hungarian folk songs for piano).


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Perfectionism is a key streak of this pianist’s personality. He has played Bach’s Overture in the French Style, BWV831, almost since he came on the scene and his performance of it now is deeply immersed in colour and detail, as if each layer of study has been absorbed one upon the other. The softer focus of movements like the Sarabande was Anderszewski at his most typically dreamy, but the French Baroque flourishes at the opening rang out like a military command to attention – almost too much so in the Wigmore’s intimate acoustic.

Recently, Anderszewski has been working with characteristic patience through Schumann’s group of Novelletten. Arriving at No.8, the longest and most varied, he showed how completely he can empathise with both sides of Schumann’s dual personality, not only the dreamer but also the hot-headed young suitor. Every phrase seemed on the edge of its seat with a fresh rush of emotion.

The same freedom of spirit had earlier brought Beethoven’s Six Bagatelles, Op.126, to life. One of Beethoven’s contemporaries claimed that the composer’s improvisations were more impressive than any of the music he had written down, and that spirit of spontaneity was perfectly captured in these late, questing pieces. To close, Anderszewski returned to an old favourite, Beethoven’s Sonata in A Flat Major, Op.110. But this was not routine: with the lights dimmed, the performance felt like the late-night communing of two old friends, their conversation barely overheard by a silent Wigmore audience.


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