François-Frédéric Guy at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Beethoven’s Pastoral, Moonlight & Hammerklavier Sonatas

Piano Sonata No.15 in D, Op.28 (Pastoral)
Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op.27/2 (Quasi una fantasia – Moonlight)
Piano Sonata No.29 in B flat, Op.106 (Hammerklavier)

François-Frédéric Guy (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 20 March, 2012
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

François-Frédéric Guy. Photgoraph: Guy VivienFrançois-Frédéric Guy opened his Beethoven recital with an intense and measured account of the first movement of the ‘Pastoral’ Sonata. The expectancy and extemporisation of Guy’s playing was absorbing, especially when so gently sounded (with subtle dynamics and colour) and almost private. When passages of greater animation were reached they were managed without compromising the piano’s tone, bright while pearly in the treble, warm but not soggy in the bass. This wasn’t high seriousness though, for in the following movements Guy found humour in staccatos, as well as playfulness and rambunctiousness. He might though have relaxed more in the finale.

The first movement of the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata (one of those nicknames outside of the composer’s gift) was here deep and dark, quite hypnotic. The tiny second movement was an elegant intermezzo, and the stormy finale (illogically shorn of its second repeat) vital and articulate, fleet but not relentless.

Following the interval, Guy left himself plenty of thinking time before launching into the first movement of the titanic ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata, ideally paced (that is, under the controversially fast metronome marking) to encompass both for heroics and expression. The quixotic scherzo lacked for buffoonery, however, too straight, too sane. The lengthy Adagio was sublime, far reaching and profound in its contemplation and consolation – but those who continued their wretched unrestrained coughing should have either stayed at home rather than selfishly remaining in the Hall to disrupt Beethoven and Guy’s eloquent meditation. For the fugal complexity of the finale, Guy’s clarity and purpose were admirable, but he didn’t quite scale the heights of Everest or indeed bring out the madness of the whole.

Whether an encore is desirable after such resounding music is arguable. Nevertheless Guy offered Für Elise (dryly it’s a Bagatelle in A minor) and brought it to charming life, Beethovenian style and insouciance in perfect accord. Elise was a lucky girl!

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