Guildhall Gold 2008 at Wigmore Hall – Schubert

Piano Sonata in A minor, D784
Nacht und Träume; Ganymed; Rastlose Liebe; Die Liebe hat gelogen; Wandrer’s Nachtlied II; Im Frühling
Octet in F, D803

Diana Ionescu (piano)

Georg Gädker (baritone), Hannah Morrison (soprano) & Marek Ruszczynski (piano)

Anna-Liisa Bezrodny & Alexandra Rhaiklina (violins), Tetsuumi Nagata (viola), Richard Birchall (cello), Luis Cabrera (double bass), Cristina Strike (clarinet), Christopher Rawley (bassoon) & Alison Bach (horn)

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 17 June, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

All these young musicians are Gold Medallists of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Diana Ionescu is precise and controlled. She was undaunted by Schubert’s technical demands. Her fingers rippled with melody; her wrists pounded the mighty repeated octaves. The mood-changes and key-changes were observed well – a keen, conscientious intellect was at work. Overall, her performance was very careful. Schubert is more substantial and spontaneous than Ionescu would have us believe. She sounded wary of the beast at was most at ease in the concluding Allegro vivace, played as if it were a brilliant sonata by Scarlatti.

Six songs followed, presented by two singers and one pianist. Marek Ruszczynski handled the accompaniments with exemplary warmth and finesse, drawing us firmly yet genially into various worlds. His contribution was an essential factor in displaying Schubert’s genius. Georg Gädker’s baritone was a joy to hear – light in tone but with a commanding resonance and presence. The words shone clearly and the voice was powerfully modulated. The stately authority of the opening “Nacht und Träume” was unassailable and grave, slower than many might choose, but absolutely steady – a tribute to the mutual understanding of singer and pianist. The lighter tone of “Ganymed” was a welcome contrast. Gädker broke off here, leaving “Wandrer’s Nachtlied II” as the final song of the six, concluding this sequence magisterially.

Hannah Morrison did not do herself justice in “Rastlose Liebe” – she sounded rushed, strained and prickly rather than restless and emotionally distraught. “Die Liebe hat gelogen” and “Im Frühling” showed off her voice better – smoothly breathed and articulated, instinctively lyrical, a soft-toned flute.

Ferdinand, Count Troyer, an amateur clarinettist, commissioned Schubert’s Octet as a companion piece to Beethoven’s Septet. The forces Schubert demands for this divertimento-like work are a string quartet with double bass bolstered by clarinet, bassoon and horn. The violins and viola are dramatic and lyrical (on the whole) whether predominating or accompanying. The cello and double bass tend to clump in peasant-like fashion, though they have occasional high spots as one of Schubert’s soaring melodies is democratically handed from one player to another. The wind-players sit out many of the bars, waiting for further solo-spots to turn up. Of those three instruments, the clarinet predominates. Cristina Strike took her several solos excellently, sonorously and smoothly. Christopher Rawley had less to do, but chipped in amiably; Alison Bach played a reticent, silky-smooth horn, blending in skilfully with her fellow-performers. Anna-Liisa Bezrodny and Alexandra Rhaiklina excelled in luscious melody-making and vigorous, forward surges of energy, impelling the group spontaneously and urgently towards wave-crest after wave-crest, triumphantly ridden. Richard Birchall and Luis Cabrera enjoyed themselves in contributing lumpish accompaniment and melody that was smooth (Birchall) or gritty (Cabrera). As a group, they made a glorious noise.

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