Piano Sonata in G, Op.31/1
15 Two-part Inventions, BWV772-786
Till Fellner (piano)
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 17 May, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
This recital gave a taste of the varied music written for the keyboard; 250 years separate the Bach and Carter pieces. Till Fellner played all, except Carter’s 90+, from memory, thus displaying that he was really part of this music. Although his appearance at the piano looks rather clinical, his music-making is not. Fellner, who has studied with Alfred Brendel, is a regular in London for concerto appearances, so it was pleasing to see him at his Wigmore Hall debut.
Beethoven’s three piano sonatas of Opus 31 were the last he produced as a contrasting set. Of them, the most played is the so-called ‘Tempest’, a brooding work. The one that Fellner chose is a gentle work with the capacity to produce laughter. Fellner worked this well, the outer movements were given a suitable feeling of parody and there was a very warm and comforting sound from the piano, lending the opening movement the air of a country dance with unexpected sequences. There could have been a bit more nobility to the central section of the Adagio grazioso and the finale really needed more charm.The ‘Little Keyboard Book’ that Bach compiled for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, contains the Two- and Three-part Inventions. They are designed to introduce the player to ever more difficult key-signatures. There being only 15 pieces means that the very ‘awkward’ ones are not used. Fortunately, Fellner offered plenty of contrasts between these little pieces. For expressiveness Fellner had the Hall under his spell with the Invention in E (No.6) and the Ninth, in F minor, which was hypnotic, like a procession to the grave. Others worth a mention are the A major), in which the rapid pianissimo playing showed off Fellner’s technical abilities, and the B flat, which, with Fellner’s composure betraying very little, had his fingers doing all the work – no need to rely on extra-musical body movements here.
Set against the melodic beauty of the other pieces heard at this recital, Carter’s 90+ (dedicated to fellow composer, Goffredo Petrassi, in his considerable old age) was hard work. The piece contains 90 scattered accented notes within the rest of the music. Fellner gave a faultless performance, giving the work, in places, a schizophrenic feel, and, in others, a warm contemplative mood that would, at first, appear not to be possible. It would be good to hear this piece again in more concentrated surroundings.
Although dedicated to Chopin, Schumann’s Kreisleriana is often seen as a testament to his love for Clara Wieck. Kreisler is a figure created by E. T. A. Hoffmann, who, as Schumann wrote “was an eccentric, wild and clever Kapellmeister”. The eight pieces, as Fellner played them, added up those qualities. For wildness there were the Fifth, which was merrily played, and Seventh, which, marked Sehr rasch, was precisely that: feverish, before its calm conclusion. The whole worked very well because of Fellner’s over-arching conception. It almost told a story, which was gratifying. The finale has the right-hand zipping along producing a sprightly melody whilst the left-hand, slightly out of time, accompanies with slow octaves. Like Tom chasing Jerry, they never meet, and gave the playful character required.