4 Impromptus, D899
Fantasy in C, Op.17
Lars Vogt (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 28 June, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
A well-devised programme for a rather hot day, this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall found Lars Vogt exploring two composers keen to explore new structural forms in their writing for piano.
Schubert’s first set of Impromptus were not initially labelled as such, but once his publisher had applied the term the composer was happy to adopt it for the following quartet (D935). Some contain striking and often daring harmonies. Vogt was keen to communicate the anguish of the first Impromptu, which led at times to a brittle sound in fortissimo passages but conveyed the deep sense of melancholy felt throughout the piece, drawing us into the tension existing throughout between the C minor and C major keys. In complete contrast to this was the Third of the set, a song-without-words that is a beautiful lullaby in all but name. This was something of a relief after the unhinged closing bars of the Second, where the sudden violent turn to the minor-key was dramatically signposted by Vogt.
Schumann’s break with conventional form in the three-movement Fantasy was appropriately dedicated to Franz Liszt, though as with much of his output the spirit of Clara (his wife) dictated its emotional outpouring. At the start Vogt was liberal with his use of the sustaining pedal, the accompaniment to the main melody touched-in rather than strongly defined, though by the time he had reached the affirmative march of the second movement the attack was crisp and even. Though the composer marks the last movement to be played ‘quietly throughout’ there are moments within that are marked fortissimo, and Vogt provided the requisite dynamic shading. The two climactic points were judged with plenty of rubato, something Vogt was close to overplaying as the home key was reached. These slight interpretative issues did not however cloud a fine performance with an impressive dynamic and emotional range, and Vogt’s commitment to each composer was evident throughout.