String Trio in G, Op.9/1
Ballade in F minor, Op.52
Scherzo in C sharp minor, Op.39
Piano Quartet No.1 in G minor, Op.25
Viviane Hagner (violin), Lawrence Power (viola) & Christian Poltéra (cello)
Khatia Buniatishvili (piano)
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 4 May, 2012
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
The Borletti-Buitoni Trust’s tenth anniversary is a year away, when Southbank Centre will host a weekend of events (17 to 19 May 2013). This International Chamber Music recital set the celebrations rolling for the B-B Trust and its support of young musicians. We first off all gathered for a short film, a well-made confection of compliments to BBT by the musicians benefitting from its encouragement. Then Mitsuko Uchida, a BBT supporter and of those talented musicians climbing the international ladder, chatted with Marshall Marcus. She was in candid form, sharing with us the advice she gives to performers, and it all made for sensible counselling.
The main concert began with Beethoven, music teeming with invention and personality, and which found the string-players as a balanced, interactive team, Viviane Hagner perhaps lacking in tone, although not wanting in virtuosity, Lawrence Power producing rich glow from his viola, and Christian Poltéra offering foundation and character. Beethoven’s string trios tend to be neglected, so it was good to catch one of them, and listening in virtual darkness aided concentration.
Petite and demure she may seem but Khatia Buniatishvili is a tigress once she gets behind the wheel of a piano! Her Chopin could never be called dull for it vibrates with outgoing communication. Yet, for all the poise and intimacy that she conjures, when the red mist descends she really goes for it and can become overbearing in projection and technically messy; the Scherzo was often raced through. Both the pieces she played suffered from sometimes wantonly going for the jugular. Khatia Buniatishvili has been compared to Martha Argerich (understandably), but she may be closer to the late, great Alexis Weissenberg.
These four artists then came together to give us expansive Brahms, Buniatishvili relatively restrained if chomping at the bit at times. Nevertheless it was a vibrant and dynamic account, if short on really quiet pianissimos, and sadly interrupted (as the Beethoven has been) by irritating clapping between movements. The musicians had the work as a whole in view, though, if not quite the finale, which opened with too fast a tempo (rapacious), which left nothing for the finishing post; otherwise, with Power’s viola continuing to shine, Poltéra offering demonstrative pizzicatos, Hagner finding more allure, and Buniatishvili a mix of support and flamboyance, this performance was always active.
We weren’t done, for there followed an informal gig in the QEH’s Front Room. The seven-strong Aronowitz Ensemble (flexible in personnel needed, from one upwards, in fact) gave us some prime entertainment, amiably introduced by the group’s pianist Tom Poster. Richard Strauss’s song, Morgen!, made an enchanting opener, in a fine arrangement. There followed contrasts by Dvořák (from his Piano Quintet and two selections from his string-quartet Cypresses), some moody Piazzolla, the obsessive Scherzo of Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, and ending with some Weill and Gershwin. Standing out, though, was Samuel Barber’s song, Sure on this Shining Night, which proved quite exquisite in this admirable transcription. All in all, this was a classy 50 minutes’ worth from this inspiring and versatile crew of very talented musicians.