3 Intermezzos, Op.117
2 Rhapsodies, Op.79
Piano Sonata in B flat, D960
Viv McLean (piano)
Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker
Reviewed: 18 May, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
This programme was clearly chosen with a connoisseur’s ear for subtlety, beginning – somewhat surprisingly, perhaps – with the three Intermezzos that form Brahms’s Opus 117. Almost at once, one may have questioned the choice of instrument, for these intimate and reflective pieces surely require a piano less bright in tone than the Steinway that Viv McLean was using, although his phrasing and sense of inner conviction were admirable characteristics of his playing.
The Steinway suited the more outspoken Rhapsodies rather better, McLean’s more expansive playing in these pieces producing rich rewards, and in Liszt’s Consolations we heard this gifted player at his best. This essentially restful and sentimental music might, on the surface, seem to require (again) a less brightly-toned piano than was on offer, but – despite the absence of virtuoso demands in the music – McLean’s voicing was admirable and his grasp of the inner workings of these pieces was completely satisfying.
Schubert’s final Sonata was given a more Romantic interpretation than this sublime masterpiece essentially calls for, but one could follow Viv McLean’s view of the work, standing as it does at the gateway of very early Romanticism, although at times one questioned whether such an approach did not intrude upon the inherently classical sonata structure which surely lies behind this composition, and that of its bedfellows. None the less, this was a fully coherent view of the Sonata, in its way very impressive, although perhaps it was not one which embraced every aspect which lay behind it, as in one’s wish for a lighter touch in the extraordinarily deft and fleet scherzo.