Till Fellner at Wigmore Hall

Rondo in A minor, K511
Elis (Three Night Pieces)
Fantasy in C, Op.17

Till Fellner (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 9 June, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Till FellnerMozart’s A minor Rondo is surely one of the most sombre pieces of music the composer wrote, and in this performance by Till Fellner came across as such, the pianist leaning slightly on the chromatic elements of the melody throughout.

Fellner’s grace was notable, his completely unhurried approach yielding concentrated feeling. Where Mozart departed from the theme he drew parallels with Bach in the motion of the first ‘interlude’, while the second hinted at the sunnier climbs of A major before turning home, and back in on itself.

This graceful approach worked well within the framework of Heinz Holliger’s early work, completed when the composer was 22. These moments of brief repose or silence often followed a sudden flurry of notes, so that while the three pieces had a nocturnal quality there was a general air of unease about them, particularly in the jarring dissonance that peppered the second piece. Perhaps the most obvious parallels are Schoenberg and Webern’s brief yet concentrated piano pieces, though Holliger – and Fellner – drew unusual effects through playing the strings inside the piano, with startling results as the second piece ended on a decidedly eerie note.

Schumann’s Fantasy linked with the Mozart, its composition in all likelihood taking place during times of strife, though this substantial three-movement work ends in a quietly resolute harmonic state, its turmoil resolved. The second movement march, an obvious homage to Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony, was suitably forthright though lost some detail in Fellner’s pedalling when the theme returned.

Other than this instance, Fellner revealed much in the clarity of his playing. The first movement in particular was extremely fluent, the flowing figuration this time enhanced by the sustaining pedal as the outpouring of the first few bars began.

The emphatic first climax of the third movement was nicely checked by its questioning cadence, Fellner consciously reintroducing the doubtful element, but this was laid to rest in the subtle yet decisive harmonic shift that brings the work to a sense of calm.

The Fantasy was dedicated to Liszt, so it was both historically and musically appropriate that Fellner should choose ‘Au lac de Wallenstadt’, from the Swiss book of “Years of Pilgrimage”, as an encore to close this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert. It caught an air of repose not always associated with its composer.

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