Overture in the French Style in B minor, BWV831
Mazurkas, Op.63 in B, F minor, and C sharp minor
Sonata No.3 in B minor, Op.58
Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
Reviewed by: Rob Pennock
Reviewed: 23 February, 2005
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Piotr Anderszewski has made a reputation for himself through his recordings – including the only version of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations that I would rank with Kovacevich’s – and by giving recitals such as this, which eschew popularism.
He chose to open with Bach’s Overture in the French Style, a multi-faceted partita in eleven sections. Throughout, Anderszewski’s use of both pedals was minimal, the range of tonal shading and micro-dynamics very wide, his tempos were flowing and there were moments of exceptional rhythmic spring. Despite all these qualities the music sounded too smooth, his range of tempo changes in the first six sections too limited and the quiet spirituality and inevitability that others have brought to the work was largely absent.
Szymanowski’s three Métopes are rarely performed and while I greatly admire much of his music, these works are not amongst his finest. They are overlong and amount to little more than a pot pourri of Eastern and French Impressionism; everything is style, not content. Anderszewski played them as well as I have ever heard, making light of any technical difficulties and using a wide range of expressive devices to bring some life to the music, but I’m afraid he still didn’t convince me of their worth.
In the Chopin pieces there was much to admire; a sensitive use of the sustaining pedal, subtle rubato and a refusal in the Sonata to make pronounced tempo changes – none are marked – in the second subjects of the first and last movements and for the scherzo’s trio. Anderszewski also gave a beautifully rapt account of the Largo where he refused to do anything other than follow the marked note values, which produced a very classical and refined sound, although when ‘tempo one’ returned he was slower than before and had to speed up slightly.
However, despite all of this there were certain elements missing from his approach. In the first movement development there was a lack of strength at its climax and in the recapitulation, and the finale certainly wasn’t Presto non tanto; power there was, but no real sense of the roller-coaster ride that I heard Perahia bring to this movement at the Royal Festival Hall three years ago. As with the Bach, Anderszewski’s Chopin was emotionally too self-contained.
For an encore Anderszewski returned to Szymanowski, giving a potent performance of the Prokofiev-like Tantris, and here he did finally exploit the full range of the piano. If he had done so earlier this recital would have made a more lasting impression.