Sonata in C, HXVI:50
Années de pèlerinage: Première annèe (Italie) – Sonetti 104 & 123 del Petrarcha
Till Fellner (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 19 September, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Haydn’s considerable output of keyboard sonatas (there are 62 published examples) tend to exist unfairly in the shadow of the admittedly fine last work in the set, the E flat, given the number 52 in Hoboken’s catalogue. It was therefore a great pleasure to hear the C major example, especially when played with the crisp articulation and wit applied by Till Fellner. The impish first subject of the first movement in particular makes the listener smile almost on impulse, so a repeat of both first and second halves of this movement was most welcome. Fellner was clearly enjoying this lunchtime performance and in the fantasia-like Adagio he brought out the improvisatory aspects of Haydn’s writing with considerable emotion. We returned to humour for the finale, with insistent motifs and sudden flourishes delivered with a mixture of grace and vigour, the music moving perceptibly towards Beethoven, his Opus 2 set published the following year.
With this boyish wit it seemed only natural to follow on with Schumann’s Kinderszenen. Fellner showed once again how true virtuosity can apply just as pertinently to pianissimo playing. There were some curiosities in the phrasing of ‘Von fremden Ländern und Menschen’ (‘Of foreign lands and people’) the accents falling on unexpected beats, but elsewhere Fellner’s delivery was light of touch, conveying the innocence of Schumann’s writing. ‘Wichtige Begebenheit’ (‘Important Event’) was the necessary exception, but this too held back a little, leading into a lovely rendition of ‘Träumerei’ that took its time with each phrase, the spell perfectly cast. With the stop-start nature of ‘Fürchtenmachen’ (‘Frightening’) there was vivid imagery in the sudden right-hand flurries, each followed by a slight pause, but in ‘Der Dichter spricht’ (The Poet Speaks) all was resolved, comfortable intimacy having returned.
Fellner was then keen to show us Liszt the song-smith, viewed through his embellishments of Petrarch sonnets. These were relatively understated but fully geared towards their vocal origins, with the high register in particular beautifully clear. In No.123 the softly oscillating accompaniment was teamed with a wistful right-hand melody that was relatively introverted but still deeply emotive. As an encore Fellner gave us more from ‘Italie’, the ‘Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa’. It may be a while before we see Fellner again, as he is spending the whole of 2012 learning new repertoire – a refreshing decision for a relatively young artist in today’s demanding musical climate.