* Piano Sonatas E flat, Op.27/1 (quasi una fantasia) & C sharp minor, Op.27/2 (Moonlight) Bartók
Sonata for two pianos and percussion
... quasi una fantasia Op.27 No.1
Op.27 No.2 Double Concerto Ligeti
Mysteries of the Macabre
Miklós Perényi (cello)
John Wallace (trumpet)
* Zoltán Kocsis, (piano)
Tanya Bannister & Bryan Wallick (pianos)
Simon Lowdon & Christopher Ridley (percussion)
London Sinfonietta & Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw
Signs, Games & Messages: György Kurtág - 7th May
Tuesday, May 07, 2002 Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse
This was a model of programme planning the lucid Classicism of Bartóks Sonata (1937) at its centre.
It is not necessarily a criticism to say that this was the least impressive performance of the evening. Yet after a suitably suspenseful introduction, the well co-ordinated partnership of Tanya Bannister and Bryan Wallick, ably complemented by Manson Ensemble-percussionists Simon Lowdon and Christopher Ridley, conveyed clarity at the expense of a cumulative intensity in the (for Bartók) lengthy opening movement, with those following a shade clinical in their sustaining of atmosphere and emotion.
As the two composers from post-war Hungary to have achieved international recognition, it makes sense to include Ligeti and Kurtág in the same programme. Melodien (1971), performed here with liquid subtlety, exemplifies the fine-spun polyphony of Ligetis avant-garde years at its most sensuous. Mysteries of the Macabre encapsulates the dangerously anarchic humour of Ligetis only (so far) opera through the theatrical cavorting of the trumpet-protagonist vividly projected by John Wallace.
If Kurtág can seem inscrutable by comparison, then the Op.27 diptych is among the most fully-realised expressions of his musical ethos. ... quasi una fantasia ... anticipates the orchestral expanse of Stele, linking its four elliptical sections in an intensifying sequence of ominous import leaning towards potential catastrophe. In both works, the spatial distribution of forces allows for a multi-dimensional presentation of ideas though whereas in Op.27 No.1 this heightens the soloistic interplay, the Double Concerto of Op.27 No.2 takes on an orchestral density that recalls the pioneering experiments of Stockhausen and Berio.
Not that Kurtágs music is other than personal in the way he fashions the shadowy textures of the opening movement into the violent momentum dance-like only in the flexibility of its onward motion that follows. The Adagio-Largo which constitutes the second main portion brings cello (the musingly expressive Miklós Perényi) and piano into focus in one of the composers most expansive and affecting memorials, offstage ensembles adding resonance to the enveloping aura of remembrance.
Earlier, Zoltán Kocsis had provided some clues as to the oblique metaphorical relationship between Kurtágs Op.27 with that of an illustrious predecessor. The elusive three-in-one design of Beethovens E flat sonata was superbly integrated, while caution was thrown to the wind in the C sharp minors collision of dynamics and motion with which the Classical framework is forced apart. The slow movement of Bartóks Sonata provided a welcome encore, as well as an apposite link into Kurtágs soundworld.