Angela Brownridge Recital – Wigmore Hall (3 November)

Sonata in F minor, Op.57 (Appassionata)
Two Rhapsodies, Op.79 – in B minor and G minor
Scherzo in B minor, Op.20
Fantasia contrappuntistica in D, Op.24
Etudes symphoniques, Op.13

Angela Brownridge (piano)

Reviewed by: Ying Chang

Reviewed: 3 November, 2003
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Angela Brownridge is well established among the ranks of British pianists, with a substantial list of recordings, some of them excellent. The lyricism and sensitivity of her playing are unquestioned. Her Wigmore Hall recital should have been an unproblematic treat; instead, apparent nerves and a surprisingly small audience made it overall a disappointment.

Brownridge opened with her trademark Appassionata, and despite the immediate length and difficulty of the work, her ability to convey melodic lines across long paragraphs and to make the piano sing were apparent. If the slow movement lacked the last degree of intensity, it was well structured and a real pleasure to listen to. However, what appeared to be a wrong turning in the finale seemed to disconcert Brownridge, who then lapsed in concentration.

Thereafter, Brownridge never truly recovered her composure. The trio sections of the Brahms and Chopin pieces were played with great beauty and genuine Innigkeit but, in the outer sections, wrong notes and sense of unease were distracting.

Brownridge is giving a series of recitals to celebrate what would have been the 75th-birthday of the late Kenneth Leighton, like Brownridge, from Yorkshire. Her engagement with his work was clear, the clarity of the polyphony admirable.

Schumann’s Etudes symphoniques is one of his grandest and most virtuosic works, Brownridge’s rapt account of the theme an appropriate beginning. But again, in the denser textures, there was a certain muddiness in the middle register and a tightness.

It must be said that the artist’s biography, equating Brownridge to Jacqueline du Pré, Cherkassky and Cortot, was hubristic in its claims. Yes, Brownridge is extremely musical, and yes, her playing is reminiscent of an earlier, freer age. But other than Cortot’s well-known reputation for wrong notes in live performance, it did our heroine no favours to be spoken of in the same breath as these legends.

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