Lars Vogt and Friends – 2

Première rapsodie for Clarinet and Piano
Piano Quartet No.2 in A, Op.26

Lars Vogt (piano), Isabelle Faust (violin), Tatjana Masurenko (viola), Gustav Rivinius (cello) & Sharon Kam (clarinet)

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 15 April, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Claude Debussy was, as a member of the Supreme Council of the Music Section of the Paris Conservatoire, required to write examination pieces for wind instruments. This is where his Première rapsodie, which he declared as “one of the most pleasing pieces I have ever written”, was born. Sharon Kam displayed much more than a ‘test-piece’ reading: her phrasing of each of the episodes and the acrobatic nature of her playing gave the piece vitality. Capably supported by Lars Vogt, who offered delightfully controlled dynamics, Kam gave a self-confident performance in this “Coffee Concert” presentation and showed-off liberated playing styles that seem to anticipate Gershwin.

Brahms’s A major Piano Quartet is epic and yet, as this performance so splendidly confirmed, also so very intimate. It may not have the fire and thrill of its predecessor but offers refinement, contemplation and restrained drama. This performance made the case, if one were required, for the piece – glorious playing from Vogt and his “Friends” – wonderful interplay and superb balancing of dynamics; an aural pleasure.

The required weight for the first movement came from Gustav Rivinius whose presence, though non-forceful and certainly not leaden, anchored proceedings. The energetic moments had a splendid spine-tingling quality that owed much to the affinity between the players. Whilst not wallowing in unwarranted sentimentality, the slow movement was played spaciously; turbulent murmuring from Vogt and the full-blown intensity of the ensemble’s playing was captivating and the close was heart-aching. The scherzo showed how this group has an arching vision of the music: held back to begin with, like a cocked pistol, the tension let the furious sections explode in to life – extraordinary. In the final movement, Isabelle Faust, at last, showed off her armoury with some striking playing. The crescendos had excitement and the coda was reminiscent of a bubbling stream: flowing and persistent. Joyful!

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