Impromptu in G flat, D899/3
Symphony No.7 Allegretto
Studies (Exercises) on a Theme of Beethoven
An die ferne Geliebte Nimm sie hin denn dieser Lieder
Sonata quasi una fantasia in C sharp minor, Op.27/2 (Moonlight)
Fantasy in C, Op.17
Piers Lane (piano)
Programmes devised by Ateş Orga
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: 14 February, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Taking place on Valentine’s Day, this second Piers Lane Metamorphoses recital, the series devised by Ateş Orga, was subtitled “Obsession” (also the name of a female fragrance!). Whether we need a concept for two of the best-known works in the piano literature is a moot point. The first half was Beethoven as seen through the eyes of Liszt and Schumann, the tone set by the Schubert Impromptu (its melody echoing the dactyllic rhythm of the second movement Allegretto of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony), which Lane played with evident warmth and poise, albeit a little heavily; the rippling accompaniment could have been more discreet to allow the melody to sing more openly.
Lane played the Beethoven-related Liszt transcriptions and Schumann Studies as a group. Maybe the rarely played (and unfinished) Studies warranted being played with more air either side. Liszt’s version of the Allegretto is very grand and received an appropriately large-scale performance. Best of all were the Studies, the theme being the Allegretto, and which make reference to several of Beethoven’s symphonies and also Schumann’s to-come Etudes symphoniques. Lane’s technical facility made light work of this demanding music.
Several poetic allusions have been applied to Beethoven’s C sharp minor sonata – Rellstab coined the title of ‘Moonlight – and from Lane it received a performance of deepest reverie with some beautifully judged changes of perspective. The Allegretto, taken gently, formed a natural bridge to the finale for which Lane adopted a well-judged, articulate tempo.
That other great love poem, Schumann’s Fantasy, was less satisfactory, as if someone were declaiming a Shakespeare Love Sonnet in the most stentorian of tones. Lane naturally commands a sonorous piano sound but it should be possible to find greater delicacy than was on show here; immediately after the impetuous opening there is a magical phrase which should make one catch one’s breath; here, it went for nothing and much of the movement was simply too loud and unvaried in tone. At least Lane – with his large reach – does not have to struggle with the central March, but by the close one emerged more bludgeoned than elated. The finale’s “night without stars” benefited from the pianist’s naturally warm sound but its climactic accelerando lacked that deep emotional undertow which can make some performances so cathartic.
A mingled chime, then, but redeemed by a wonderful encore. If you are a sucker for kitsch – I am – Percy Grainger’s Ramble on Rosenkavalier, written in memory of his mother Rose, is a must – and Lane played it to the manner born.