Préludes – Book I [selections: Voiles; Le vent dans la plaine; Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest; La cathédrale engloutie]
Piano Sonata in B flat, D960
Francesco Piemontesi (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 16 December, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Given the inclement weather it was rather appropriate that Francesco Piemontesi should begin this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall with four Debussy Préludes on the subject of wind and rain! There were many good things in Piemontesi’s playing, with careful phrasing and selective use of the sustaining pedal being two prominent features. He began with the remote sounds of ‘Voiles’, elusive and mysterious, and ‘Le vent dans la plaine’, with its cloudy clusters of notes beautifully dappled. ‘Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest’ crackled with atmosphere, the sudden interventions of the right-hand acquiring a more-incisive timbre from the Fazioli piano, while ‘La cathédrale engloutie’ (The Engulfed Cathedral) was wonderfully delivered, the mottled colours clouding the plainchant theme solemnly declaimed in octaves.
Piemontesi’s account of Schubert’s last published Piano Sonata was a carefully studied and subtly shaded affair from this very unfussy performer. He kept a very high level of concentration throughout, maintaining the essential serenity of this piece with admirable control and beautiful, song-like phrasing. The first movement, given without its exposition repeat, did though have its fair share of troublesome interventions in the form of the persistent left-hand trill that shadows the sunlight of the main theme, and the tensions between these two were well handled. Piemontesi then gave a thoroughly assured account of the slow movement, fluid but with a sense of repose that was revealing, disturbed only by the middle section. There was humour invested in the last two movements, a sign of Haydn’s influence coming through in the flicks and ornaments of the melody in the scherzo, a delight here, and in the constant return to a ‘false’ key in the finale. Throughout, Piemontesi was particularly convincing with his use of rubato.