Suite No.4 in E flat for unaccompanied cello, BWV1010
Sonata for Solo Cello, Op.8
Alban Gerhardt (cello)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 16 June, 2014
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Rubato was also prominent, so too the use of silence, in Gerhardt’s performance of the Solo Sonata of Zoltán Kodály, completed in 1915. This astonishing work retains a formidable raw power and advanced musical language, Kodály writing for the cello as several different voices, securing a number of breathtaking effects in the process. Gerhardt was equal to all these and more, the technical feats, clarity of tuning and part-voicing falling under his fingers instinctively, so that he could concentrate fully on expression. The folk elements so important to this piece were lucid, particularly in the ornamentations applied through the second movement, where birdcalls could be vividly detected. The broad-brush strokes from the cello’s lower notes – the bottom string detuned from a ‘C’ to a ‘B’, as instructed – gave the surest of foundations, while the soaring notes four to five octaves above carried their piercing intensity to the back of the Hall. Gerhardt’s grasp of the Sonata’s structure was a further convincing element, and as the finale galloped into its fast section there was a strong sense of ‘coming home’. With several massive chords, Gerhardt was emphatically there, the most intense part of the reading utilising polar ends of the cello with hugely impressive power but no little grace too.
Such grace was also evident in a softly essayed encore: the ‘Prelude’ from Bach’s First Cello Suite (BWV1007). Gerhardt successfully survived a cellist’s recurring nightmare, the instrument slipping forward while playing it! No damage – musical or otherwise – was done.