Andreas Haefliger at Wigmore Hall – Liszt & Schubert

Années de pèlerinage: Première annèe (Suisse)Schubert
Piano Sonata in G, D894

Andreas Haefliger (piano)

Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: 9 November, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Andreas Haefliger. Photograph: Marco BorggreveTo open his Wigmore Hall recital, Andreas Haefliger played the introduction to ‘Chapelle de Guillaume Tell’ very slowly, with long pauses. His cantabile playing featured soft, golden tone, innumerable slight tempo changes and occasional rubato. In climaxes his tone wasn’t compromised and the tolling bass in the final bars was grandly sonorous. However, he also accelerated into climaxes and the use of pedal was – at best – over-enthusiastic. ‘Au lac de Wallenstadt’ was very impressionistic, with a chiselled right-hand and in ‘Pastorale’ the rhythm and line was syncopated and dislocated. In ‘Au borde d’un source’ Haefliger’s crystalline tone was compromised by too much use of the sustaining pedal and in ‘Orage’ there was enormous attack and fury, but – despite some tremendous playing in the coda – any sense of line and shape was lost in the over-pedalled, rather glutinous sound Haefliger favoured. ‘Vallée d’Obermann’ was taken very broadly with constant variation of tempo and dynamics, and in the final bars Haefliger produced some absolutely gorgeous tone.

The first movement of Schubert’s G major Piano Sonata was taken at a reasonably relaxed tempo, Haefliger intent on creating a totally different soundworld to that of Liszt. Use of the pedal and the dynamic range were much more restrained. The second subject brought no tempo change – as it should be, it was simply an extension of the first. Haefliger observed the exposition repeat and kept the atmosphere subdued, but failed to present the material in new ways. The development featured dynamic contrasts and the fff climax was suitably powerful, but the listener wasn’t drawn into the performance. In the Andante the flowing tempo allowed both the lyrical and the rhythmic elements to be heard in the first subject, but the second theme was slightly too jarring. The Minuet followed without a break and Haefliger combined both the dance and martial elements in the opening section, although the sense of sad whimsy that Sviatoslav Richter so memorably found in the Trio was missing. The finale was taken at a relatively fast tempo and the preparation for the move into the minor was very well handled, with a slight slowing and change of tone and weight. In many ways this was the most successful movement, perhaps because its urbane wit found harmony with the performer.

For an encore Haefliger returned to Liszt and ‘Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este’ from the Third Year of Années de Pèlerinage, which was played very softly, with dazzling delicacy, and little use of the pedals.

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