Risør Festival of Chamber Music at Wigmore Hall [Friday]

Sonata in F for Violin and Piano, Op.8
Oh! Quand je dors
Wesendonck-Lieder – Im Treibhaus
Ständchen, Op.106/1
Au pays où se fait la guerre
Chanson perpétuelle, Op.37
Piano Quartet in G minor, Op.25

Henning Kraggerud (violin) & Marc-André Hamelin (piano) [Grieg]

Measha Brueggergosman (soprano) & Marc-André Hamelin (piano) [Liszt-Duparc]

Measha Brueggergosman (soprano) & Leif Ove Andsnes (piano) with Risør Festival Strings [Chausson]

Henning Kraggerud (violin), Lars Anders Tomter (viola), Torleif Thedéen (cello) & Leif Ove Andsnes (piano) [Brahms]

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 26 November, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The versatility, virtuosity and camaraderie of the Risør Festival of Chamber Music is on the road, taking in Brussels, New York and London. In the latter city four concerts at Wigmore Hall are on the agenda. This first recital opened with music by one of Norway’s most-famous sons, the three-movement F major Violin Sonata by Edvard Grieg, pleasing music falling short of ultimate distinction and with an overlong, discursive finale. Yet Henning Kraggerud and Marc-André Hamelin made a strong case for it, the violinist attractively toned and alive to the music’s expressive, folksy, intense and capricious nature, an intense and committed response that found Hamelin a redoubtable accompanist.

Leif Ove Andsnes. Photograph: Lorenzo AgiusMeasha Brueggergosman proved too creamy of timbre and vibrato-laden, overly operatic, for the Liszt song, and eclipsed Hamelin’s gentle playing. She scaled-down for Wagner, the composer preparing for “Tristan und Isolde”, finding an attractive withdrawn quality. Yet Brahms’s delightful “Serenade” was a little shapeless, a more moderate tempo would have helped this aspect, and certainly a lighter and wittier response was needed; and Duparc’s setting was over-enunciated if heartfelt. The interval would now have been welcome – not least because the Hall was oppressively hot – yet we witnessed another platform change to get the string quartet seated for Chausson, a manoeuvre that would have suited the (different) personnel for the second half. Nevertheless with some young and talented Risør musicians, and Leif Ove Andsnes taking to the piano, “Chanson perpétuelle” (played in one of its three versions) proved soulful and longing, its emotional intensity well-charted by Brueggergosman.

After that much-needed interval, the first of Brahms’s piano quartets was given a vibrant performance by Andsnes, Kraggerud, Lars Anders Tomter and Torleif Thedéen, the music flowing and potent, these four seasoned musicians addressing the score freshly and enjoying each other’s company. This was a warm and eloquent account, beautifully balanced and blended, contrasts of musical character played-up but not exaggerated, dynamics scrupulously observed but not pedantic. It was a rendition brimful of experience yet youthfully alive, beautifully prepared yet on-the-wing, the ‘Hungarian’ finale earthily robust and given with madcap pirouetting, fully witnessed yet avoiding kitsch, the swift initial tempo suggesting nothing would be left for the exhilarating coda – but these players managed it – and Andsnes left no doubt as to the piano’s cimbalom-masquerade in the brief cadenza. All in all, a magnificent and engrossing performance.

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