Martin Roscoe at Wigmore Hall – 65th-Birthday Concert – Schubert Piano Sonatas D894 & D960

2 Scherzos, D593 – in B-flat & in D-flat
Piano Sonata in G, D894
Piano Sonata in B-flat, D960

Martin Roscoe (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 8 July, 2017
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Martin Roscoe at Wigmore Hall – 65th-Birthday ConcertIf not quite the day itself, that’s August 3, Martin Roscoe gave us something to celebrate with this Wigmore Hall Schubert recital, opening with a pair of lively Scherzos played with poise and elegance, the first whimsical and witty, suggestive of the tavern and a tankard, the second more Sonata-related, earthy and mercurial with a meltingly lovely Trio, Roscoe lavishing affection on it.

Schubert’s music is very close to Roscoe’s heart; his selection of two grand Piano Sonatas – given expansive and enquiring readings – memorable proof of this. D894 was altogether special, the opening movement of initial gravitas and of lilt in the second subject. Some disappointment that the exposition was not repeated was soon compensated for by the way the music was seamlessly developed, gathering in rhetoric, and illuminated by Roscoe’s insight. The deceptive Andante balanced intimate song and emotions of greater demonstration, and the Scherzo-like Minuet was rough-hewn, the folksy Trio chiming delicately. With a Finale of irresistible shape – affable and countrified if with heart-wrenching, vista-expanding moments and a magical wind-down conclusion – this was a performance to treasure.

In Schubert’s ultimate Piano Sonata Roscoe found a perfectly judged pace for the opening Molto moderato, so expressive and with direction, as part of an account that balanced earthly regret with otherworldliness promise, resignation with fortitude; and, this time, a repeat of the exposition, the lead-back bars the only occasion when the ominous bass trill gets a fortissimo appearance; the return to the opening seemed like Groundhog Day. The slow movement, a time-taken Andante from Roscoe, hauntingly so, was evocative of ‘Der Einsame im Herbst’ (before Mahler got there), the central section an uplift of hope until the music sinks back into autumnal loneliness. With a Scherzo that sparkled with clarity and lightness and a Finale that was resolute while opening up compelling dimensions, this too was spellbinding music-making.

As an encore Roscoe offered Schubert’s exotic Ungarische Melodie (D817), pointing the way to Liszt’s rhapsodising nativeness, and here a delightful full-circle complement to the Scherzos. It completed an evening of variety – of touch, colour and dynamics – infinite care and stellar musicianship.

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