Louis Lortie plays Chopin at Wigmore Hall

Nocturne in A flat, Op.32/2
Impromptu in A flat, Op.29
Nocturne in B, Op.32/1
Nocturne in F sharp minor, Op.48/2
Impromptu in F sharp, Op.36
Nocturne in D flat, Op.27/2
Impromptu in G flat, Op.51
Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op.27/1
Fantaisie-impromptu in C sharp minor, Op.66
Nocturne in B, Op.9/3
Piano Sonata in B minor, Op.58

Louis Lortie (piano)

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 5 June, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Louis Lortie. © EliasLouis Lortie was here as part of Wigmore Hall’s London Pianoforte Series in a Chopin recital that often heightened that composer’s Romanticism and exploited his subtleness to captivating effect. French-Canadian Lortie is an undemonstrative, reserved musician. Everything here rang clearly through the Hall, a warm sound generated by the Fazioli instrument. The programme featured Chopin’s Impromptus, the posthumously-published Fantasie-Impromptu, a selection of Nocturnes, and concluded with a grand account of the B minor Piano Sonata.

The Nocturnes heard here processed from the most formally conceived through to foretasting the Impressionistic world of Debussy. Within this mix Lortie explored avenues, pointed-up decorative details and balanced the melancholic and occasionally despairing world that they inhabit with shafts of sunlight, and with Lortie’s sense of Byronic poetry swirling into the mix, these were beautiful accounts. From the first published set of Nocturnes, the B major made for an apposite ‘prelude’ to the B minor Sonata, Lortie’s tendency to be heavy-handed not masking the delicacy he brought: an ideal blend that established great concentration, despite the worst efforts of those in the audience with hacking coughs or with paper in hands that simply had to be rustled.

Lortie was relaxed for the Impromptus, and whilst not registering the scale of emotions of Schubert’s pieces of this title, the soloist explored their gamut and eschewed casual tendencies, excepting the rapid figuration of the A flat major example, whose outer sections benefited from Lortie’s light touch and finesse to create a jolly escapade. The Second, in F sharp, had a salon-music quality, and its grand moments were well-pointed and all-encompassing. Before the interval was the Fantasie-Impromptu: Lortie’s nimble-yet-powerful fingerwork rolling over the notes and punching out the themes in exhilarating fashion. The central song-like section created a heady mix of dreamy music.

The B minor Sonata was a majestic conception, given with authority, although Lortie was less than convincing with the opening movement’s wayward, quixotic character, but he resolved this and pushed home the music’s Romantic leanings. The following scherzo was appropriately mercurial, Lortie’s hands fluttering lightly over the keys. The ‘heart’ was in the Largo, a solace for loss, the beauty of its lilting nature utterly unforced, ten minutes of heaven, then the finale grew and grew in momentum, its trajectory inevitable, struggles and storminess reconciled.

Lortie’s welcome encore was also by Chopin, the B minor Étude from the Opus 25 set, which galloped forth, its Lisztian aspects given full turbulence, and entirely at home post-Sonata. This recital was a treat, enhanced by the wonderful blue sky still visible through Wigmore Hall’s ceiling windows.

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