Piano Sonata in D minor, Op.31/2 (The Tempest)
Piano Sonata in E minor, Op.90
Etudes d’exécution transcendante [selections – No.3: Paysage; No.5: Feux-follets; No.8: Wilde Jagd; No.10; No.11: Harmonies du soir; No.12: Chasse-neige]
Igor Tchetuev (piano)
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 14 March, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
I could just say that I had reservations about this recital but that Audrey loved it and that Martin wouldn’t agree with me although Mike nodded appreciably at my criticisms of the Beethoven and Carol similarly regarding aspects of the Liszt while Bill was making noises of approbation during the Transcendental Etude sequence (just at the point where I was at my least approving). It’s good to know all these fine people. Nevertheless here was opinion both diverse and agreeing. Such a ‘judgely huddle’ doesn’t give the whole story, not if you too were also at this concert.
With hindsight Igor Tchetuev might have opened with Opus 90 and its assertive first pages rather than trying to create ‘from cold’ essential atmosphere out of that recurring arpeggio that begins ‘The Tempest’ Sonata. But then appreciation of what Tchetuev was doing at this point was undermined by two latecomers being allowed in after the performance had started – with consequent noise and quite a palaver for one of them to get his coat off! Add in the distracting light of his still-on mobile, seemingly surgically sewn into his hand; all part of the uniform these days. And the woman, in Row T, who spent both sonatas surreptitiously glancing at her illuminated phone to (presumably) check for texts – not only irritating and disrespectful to House rules, but sad. Your reviewer’s ears and eyes were under attack. So, with one’s concentration being threatened, I noted from Tchetuev a powerful but not aggressive performance of ‘The Tempest’, one considered and fundamentally musical, notable for clarity between the hands, an affecting directness in the central movement, but a little too quick for the finale to be its shapely ‘spinning wheel’ self. Oh for some danger and greater characterisation. Opus 90 was just fine though; the first movement contoured and poised and combative without roughness, repose and agitation enjoying the scales of justice; the second movement – pointing to Schubert – was simply exposed, flowing convincingly and sensitively poetic.
The Liszt (Tchetuev played his six selections not quite in the advertised order: the listing for this review is thus strictly numerical) also lacked for description. Although there was plenty of fortissimo, if sometimes too thunderous for Wigmore Hall, a venue in which the most-whispered pianissimo reaches the back of it with ease, there was less evidence of quietude, that something beneath pianissimo that is ear-catching. ‘Paysage’ was bright and a little too loud; ‘Chasse-neige’ would have enjoyed a little more shiver and, yes, a little less volume. ‘Wilde Jagd’ was certainly commanding and dramatic; yet for all the bravura in Tchetuev’s playing he could be clangourous and effortful in ‘Harmonies du soir’. ‘Feux-follets’ was a little too rowdy at too quick a speed for clarity and not elfin enough. The blandly titled “No.10” was fabulously played, yet at a blurring speed and with resistible decibels. I was more concerned that Liszt was being made bombastic and virtuoso-centric. Liebestraum No.3 was the encore, finely rippled and lyrical but then too heated and throwaway. One could admire Tchetuev’s confidence and seamless phrasing, but for all the places that he impressed he could just as easily seem detached or indiscriminate. When Tchetuev returns to the Wigmore Hall, as he surely will, his range of dynamics really needs to be tailored to its superbly immediate acoustic.