Christopher Langdown at Wigmore Hall

Moments musicaux, Op.84
Préludes: Book II [selection: La Puerta del Vino; Bruyères; Général Lavine; La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune; Ondine; Canope; Feux d’artifice]
Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31/2 (Tempest]
Dramatic Fantasia
Deo Omnis Gloria
Three Pieces, Op.2 – No.1: Étude in C sharp minor
Études, Op.8 [selection]

Christopher Langdown (piano)

Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: 9 June, 2009
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Christopher Langdown. Photograph: christopherlangdown.comBecause of the tube strike, an audience of fewer than eighty greeted Christopher Langdown at Wigmore Hall. Those present heard an adventurous programme by a gifted artist.

The opening Moszkowski and Debussy items did not perhaps show Langdown at his best. Moszkowski’s superb “Moments Musicaux” needed more lilt, caprice and humour. In compensation the B flat piece was beautifully phrased and, from this artist, seemed to pre-date 1920s’ salon music. Debussy’s Second Book of Préludes can be seen as a series of nocturnes, which was very much Langdown’s approach in these deeply felt performances. ‘La Puerta del Vino’ was slow and beautifully pedalled, with a tolling, luminous bass and varied right-hand dynamics. ‘Bruyères’ developed a sense of poetry. Maybe more colour was needed in the other pieces, and the rhythms occasionally needed more spring and definition, yet there was something mesmeric in the playing.

Beethoven’s ‘Tempest’ Sonata received a great performance. In the opening movement, there was strength and clarity at a relaxed tempo and the exposition repeat brought different accentuation and phrasing. The development’s tempo was varied enormously and almost came to a halt, but power and concentration carried the listener with the artist. The funereal drum beats of the Adagio were delivered with tragic menace and the finale taken at a relaxed tempo. This was some of the finest Beethoven-playing I have heard in years.

After the interval there was Frank Bridge’s Dramatic Fantasia, music that combines Russian romanticism, quintessentially English harmonies and intervals with some very rich chords, and a gorgeous change to B flat for the slow third section. Every aspect of the score was realised and the coda was immensely powerful.

Langdown’s own Deo Omnis Gloria was very much in the same mould, a romantic reflection on religious ecstasy. Finally, the Scriabin pieces in which more variation and attack would have brought the works to greater life. Nevertheless, Langdown’s serious conception of these works brought its own dividends in terms of sustained power and romantic textures. There was one encore, the first of Satie’s Gnossiennes, which received a very sombre rendition

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