Guildhall Artists at the Barbican Beethoven
Piano Sonata No.27 in E minor, Op.90 Berg
Piano Sonata, Op.1 Beethoven
Piano Sonata No.30 in E, Op.109
Mishka Rushdie Momen (piano)
Tristan und Isolde – Prelude and Liebestod Berg
Wozzeck – Three Fragments Beethoven
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67
Angela Denoke (soprano)
London Symphony Orchestra
LSO/Gianandrea Noseda – Beethoven 5 – Tristan und Isolde & Wozzeck with Angela Denoke
Thursday, June 21, 2012 Barbican Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
The LSO concert closed with a fast, miscast Beethoven 5. Although Gianandrea Noseda lacks nothing in commitment, the first movement suffered the most. Nicely speckled as the detailing was, streamlining and harassing do not suit this music, a sound and fury that signified less than it should. After such haranguing, the ensuing Andante con moto seemed not to belong: it was shapely, proud and withdrawn, tender at times yet just a little insipid; not really a Beethovenian trait. Beguiling woodwinds offset censorious trumpets. The scherzo went further adrift, stately, careful even, and inappropriately playful, the trio (if it can be called that) light on lower strings (oh for the weight and attack of the 1962 LSO on its Mercury recording with Antal Dorati). The finale (repeat observed) had some sort of majesty and blaze, plenty of momentum but it fell short of being momentous, the six double basses now becoming inadequate in presence, losing out to the ‘new’ trombones. Yes, it was exciting (probably) but the final chord lacked ultimate triumph and summed up this curate’s egg of an interpretation, which was undoubtedly played with conviction.
The first half was of ‘operatic excerpts’ – on an elevated level. In the pieces that ‘bookend’ Tristan und Isolde a mystical quality settled on the opening bars, a slow-burn journey to a passionate climax. For a while we were in the opera house. Come the ‘Liebestod’ Angela Denoke gave us a mature Isolde. She was not entirely happy with top notes (pitching) or low ones, the latter not projecting enough. But she transfigured our heroine with declaration. She was happier in the Expressionist world (as Marie) of Berg’s Wozzeck, a grizzly story, the ‘Fragments’ that the composer arranged as a trailer beautifully played (maybe too much so) with all the many instrumental solos venerably taken. If the post-Mahlerian march in ‘Fragment I’ lacked swagger, Noseda was alive to the score’s humanity and pathos and also its cataclysm – the huge, searing climax towards the opera’s close; again a vivid theatrical production was suggested. Yet we were denied Act 3/Scene 5 in which the taunting children appear (anticipated by the programme-note writer and with the text printed). Curiously Noseda stopped where Boulez thinks the opera should end – convincing that the French master might just be correct.
At the 6 p.m. recital pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen, now a postgraduate scholar at the Guildhall School, offered three sonatas. She might have chosen some Wagner (Eine Sonate für das Album von Frau MW, say) rather than Beethoven’s Opus 90 so as to complement the LSO’s triumvirate of composers. That said Beethoven in E minor was given a nicely modulated performance. She did well with Berg’s Opus 1, playing with poise and concentration this hot-house, tonally subversive piece that may not be fully formed into Bergian language but owes little to forebears, save Liszt.
Opus 109 proved a strong test of the pianist’s mettle. She was a little cautious with the opening movement (and not mistake-free) but attacked the scherzo with gusto to bring Beethovenian rambunctiousness. The finale was just a little literal and earthbound, the sublime ‘Theme’ needing more time to express itself and bewitch the listener. Undoubtedly Mishka Rushdie Momen knows the score if not quite yet what the notes can open up. She is certainly assured and devoted.