Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Isserlis and Adès

Wigmore Hall 4 December 2008

A recital which none of the listeners who packed Wigmore Hall to the limit of standing spaces will ever forget. An unique programme which "worked" perfectly, book ended with three contrasting French sonatas, each totally individual.

Debussy's is standard fare, and quickly showed Thomas Adès to be an instinctive duo player, sensitive to the problems of balancing with cello (c.f. Gerald Moore's Am I too loud). With the piano lid unapologetically thrust wide open, his dynamic range was wide, yet always perfectly controlled, and the voicing combined telling expression with support for Steven Isserlis, whose platform manner is far less flamboyant than in earlier times and his tone often less than full. Adès is disconcertingly still as he sits and plays, the diametric opposite to a Lang Lang (our Aleks Szram is another such, offering nothing but attentiveness to the listener's eyes). This is a partnership for connoisseurs.

The Fauré & Poulenc sonatas were diametric opposites; Fauré's long lines as against Poulenc's nervous restlessness - neither was quickly established in the canon, and the joyous wit of the Poulenc - composed for Fournier - belies the composer's own doubts about it; a brilliant conclusion to a great concert followed (according to Beecham's principle of opposites for his lolipop encores) with a calm meditative piece by Villa-Lobos.

As a foil to the three French masterworks, Czech and Hungarian gems. Janácek's delicious Pohadka was given with a fourth movement subsequently suppressed, too good to lose and four concentrated unaccompanied cello pieces by Kurtag, "short but not miniatures", the last two of which "stray into the region of the barely audible" [Isserlis], leaving us aware of Wigmore Hall's background sounds; high pitched, probably from the lighting, and a low one perhaps from the heating - plus the occasional rumble of a tube train underneath... The tiny pieces, each pared down to its inner core, riveted the audience's attention in cough-free silence and may be remembered equally with the major works heard.

This programme has the makings of a great CD?

Peter Grahame Woolf