Truls Mørk & Khatia Buniatishvili at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven & Rachmaninov

Sonata in C for Piano and Cello, Op.102/1
Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano, Op.19

Truls Mørk (cello) & Khatia Buniatishvili (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 5 March, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Truls Mørk. Photograph: Stephane de Bourgies/Virgin ClassicsTruls Mørk has long been familiar with Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata, having recorded it with Jean-Yves Thibaudet for in 1995. As part of this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert he revisited it with Khatia Buniatishvili as part of a relatively new and potentially exciting partnership.

On this evidence the two performers complement each other very well musically, with Mørk the more measured of the two, Buniatishvili offering a typically passionate approach. Here, however, she was if anything a little reserved in a work that makes particularly virtuosic demands on the pianist. The scherzo in particular was tight and compact, a flight of fancy with nuances brought out. The first movement took a while to grow from its deliberate beginnings to a more authoritative Allegro moderato, but the transition was well managed. Once in the fast music the surges forward were tempered, with a little left in reserve. The slow movement was nicely done, clean rather than overly romantic save for the climactic point, but the previous reserve was emphatically blown away by the exuberance of the finale. On a couple of occasions Buniatishvili applied the brakes a little too heavily, and though these pre-meditated interruptions were not necessarily invalid they did slow the momentum. Otherwise dialogue between piano and cello was natural, achieved with musical chemistry and performed with enthusiasm and flair.

Khatia Buniatishvili. Photograph: Esther Haase/SonyPreceding the Rachmaninov was the first of Beethoven’s two cello sonatas gathered as Opus102. Typically Beethoven gives the piano top billing and explores an alternative to the conventional four-movement format, offering two fast movements, each with a slow introduction. The Sonata begins as if lost in the middle of a thought; Mørk and Buniatishvili caught this feeling of inner contemplation. There was room perhaps for more drive in the Allegro vivace that follows. The lead into this was exquisitely poised, the musicians stretching the rallentando almost as far as it could go before the release of the finale, an effective tactic which gave the performance a pleasing geometry.

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