Opening each half with Mozart, Aimards observance of all repeats, delivered with little variety, made the B minor Adagio seem too long for its skeletal and withdrawn expression, while the mechanical organ confection, although charming, outstayed its welcome halfway through.
Aimard loves what he does an affectionate smile or something more ecstatic greets a particular harmony or turn of phrase. This visual commitment, head-back gestures (and glasses) remind of the young Alfred Brendel. (Aimard has accompanied Brendel in his poetry-reading recitals.)
Aimard again proved an outstanding player of Debussy, as subtly nuanced, atmospheric and expressive as could be wished for; and the virtuoso clangour of Messiaens rhythmic studies could not have been more musically realised. Aimard convinces that theres more to Messiaen than repetitive simplistic gestures soaked in spiritual fervour his two encores from Vingt Regards enjoyed musical focus and emotional intensity, the second one sharing the same bare essentials as Mozarts Adagio to bring the recital to a satisfying full-circle conclusion.
The Beethoven was not so compelling, if interesting. Maybe Aimard is playing some repertoire simply because it is there. His Appassionata, despite many incidental felicities, was not sustained as a whole. Shapely phrasing and thoughtful dynamic contrasts testified to Aimards musicianship, though some technical limitations worried slightly.
Attempting and attaining were not always commensurate in Aimards rather lightweight traversal, inconsistently identified, and shy of the big statement. Aimards Boulezian relish of certain aspects of the sonata harmonic, colouristic and touch confirmed his partial view, which had warmed come the Finale, the coruscating coda more or less delivered as scripted. The Andante con moto was curious (likeable if not wholly convincing) for being gentle, in a Haydnesque sense, Aimards pedalling adding impressionistic harmonic blends. Aimard tried very hard, although the more he tried the less he achieved a small-scale Appassionata when considered against Richters transcendentalism, Brendels observances, Weissenbergs emotion-spilling or the rigour of Pollini, the latter just a few months ago in this very hall.
- The next Harrods recital is given by Boris Berman Chopin, Debussy and Prokofiev on 22 May in the Royal Festival Hall
- Box Office: 020 7960 4242 www.rfh.org.uk