After the interval, Berman looked and felt much more at ease with a well-chosen selection of Debussy preludes, distinguished by delicate use of colour and inspired timing. La puerta del vino was notable for contrasting moods that were never so violent as to be harsh and uncontrolled, nor so sweet that passion wilted into adoration. For Ondine, Berman employed a feather touch in the upper register, fleetingly tinged with malice. At his finest in La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune, Berman created a rich, warm tone of dampened bell-like sounds and built a superb crescendo in a rare passage rising out of the hushed atmosphere. General Lavines eccentricities were made humorous by Bermans phrasal give and take.
If maybe an item too much, Berman played three of Prokofievs ten piano transcriptions from his ballet Romeo and Juliet (Op.64) as everything they should be: respectively broad and bombastic, sensitive and graceful, and lively. He concluded with the second of Prokofievs War Sonatas, Berman unifying the work through related tempi and awesome technical command that always served the music; variations of pace, subtle rubato and dynamic changes were effective. The stridency of the opening Allegro inquieto was vibrantly raw but never metallic, the temporally ambiguous Andantino section kept moving with judicious use of the sustaining pedal and inspired phrasing to maintain tension and malevolence, overall unity emphasised by not reducing the second movement, Andante caloroso, to gushing sentimentality. Berman concentrated on the sonatas rhythmic rather than barbaric qualities and in the concluding Precipitato he conquered the awkward syncopated chords and transient melodic intervals with seamless ease.
- The next Harrods recital is given by Garrick Ohlsson Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninov on 5 June in the Royal Festival Hall
- Box Office: 020 7960 4242 www.rfh.org.uk