BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital at Wigmore Hall – Aleksandar Madžar plays Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata

Piano Sonata No.29 in B-flat, Op.106 (Hammerklavier)

Aleksandar Madžar (piano)

Reviewed by: Barnaby Page

Reviewed: 26 February, 2018
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Aleksandar MadžarBeethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata is a fearsome peak for any pianist to scale, not least because it requires ascent up so many contrasting paths: the high drama of the first bars, the fugal counterpoint, the melancholia of the slow movement, and the awkward brevity (in this context) of the second.

Aleksandar Madžar didn’t quite make it to the summit unscathed; much of his musical journey was successful, but those triumphs were interspersed with some unfortunate falls.

The first movement was lacking in passion, despite Madžar’s good dynamic control and an exciting, propelled fugato; it also felt oddly hurried. The Scherzo is inherently difficult to carry off, being so much slighter than the others; here a greater tempo contrast with the first movement might have helped, other than deliberation.

As for the slow movement, I’m not sure it needs to wallow in sorrow the way it’s sometimes played; Madžar gave us an opening that was compelling and foreboding, perhaps in a melancholy way but not in a self-pitying one, and never losing its plaintive lyricism. In the Finale – which, with its emerging joyousness, bears to the preceding movements much the same relationship as the Finale of the Fifth Symphony does to its precursors – a few of the issues that troubled the first movement were again in evidence: there were some curiously abrupt, disconnected passages.

Madžar’s articulation was attractive, though, and it came to the fore in his encore: the ‘Allemande’ from J. S. Bach’s B-flat Partita (BWV 825), a flowing account with sensitive accents emphasised to just the right degree.

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