Partita in E Minor, BWV830
Richard Rodney Bennett
Fantasia on the Inner Voice [World premiere]
Après une lecture du Dante (Années de pélèrinage, Book 2: Italie)
Wu Qian (piano)
Reviewed by: Diarmuid Dunne
Reviewed: 19 May, 2004
Venue: Purcell Room, London
Wu Qian is a pianist I’ve had the pleasure of hearing before. On both previous occasions I have been very impressed with her clean articulation, strong technique and selfless commitment to the music.
This recital at the Purcell Room was no exception. Wu began with Bach’s E minor Partita and played beautifully throughout. With the emphasis on precision, clarity and timing, Bach has a tendency to expose a pianist’s technique and Wu was clearly up to the job. Her voicing was excellent and her commitment to the faster dance movement’s impressive, showing real zip and energy whist retaining an essential baroque character. One minor criticism might be that Wu showed a slight lack of dynamic range, which gave a somewhat monotonous feel at times. She can’t have been helped by an intrusive cameraman in the audience who walked up and down the aisles during the performance; well done to the SBC staff for ejecting him in the interval.
After the Bach, Wu played a selection of Debussy etudes, which displayed some especially fine playing – fluent, energetic and characterful, mysterious and brooding, and in ‘Pour les octaves’ Wu unleashed grandiose power, intense energy and fabulously powerful octaves.
The second half began with Richard Rodney Bennett’s Excursions, three short jazz/blues-style pieces that were attractively played. Once again, crisp technique and a lively energy pervaded, and Wu settled into the style very convincingly. The young American composer Brian Herrington, who has something interesting to say, wrote Fantasia on the Inner Voice especially for this recital. In the music’s haunting feel, Scriabin-like wailing trills emanating from an unsettling otherworldly sound-picture, Wu was convincing throughout.
The recital came to a close with Liszt’s Après une lecture du Dante, a challenging piece, which Wu took on with impressive commitment. The contrast between the diabolic and angelic, and the inferno and paradiso, were beautifully characterised and played with great transparency. Wu showed impressive power and projection as well, with real fire and energy, albeit towards the end she did show signs of tiredness with the more virtuoso passages becoming a bit ragged. Interestingly, her temperament showed irritation at the mistakes, which impressively galvanised her will and steely determination.
A single encore, Liszt’s Liebesträume No.3, rounded off an enjoyable evening.