YCAT Wigmore Hall Lunchtime Series: Richard Uttley plays Haydn, Grieg, Britten & Debussy

Sonata in C, HXVI:50
Lyric Pieces, Op.43 – II: The Lonely Wanderer
Holiday Diary, Op.5
Lyric Pieces, Op.65 – VI: Wedding Day at Troldhaugen

Richard Uttley (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 5 March, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Richard Uttley. ©Lords PhotographyRichard Uttley began this well-planned recital with an affectionate reading of a Haydn Sonata, from a group of three written on a visit to London late in his life. This C major work has charm aplenty in its opening theme, and Uttley gave a clean-cut but witty delivery both of this and its development. There was humour, too, in the finale, although here the phrasing was more stop-start, with extra stress on Haydn’s deliberate ‘wrong note’ chords. In the Adagio there was considerable depth of feeling especially in the brief melancholic moment when the music slips into the minor key.

Grieg’s Lyric Pieces seldom grace the concert-hall these days; a shame, they are very attractive miniatures that fascinated Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter. Uttley gave a thoughtful account of ‘The Lonely Wanderer’, with some attractive phrasing, while ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’ was a bright and rustic occasion. ‘The Lonely Wanderer’ led straight into the Britten, his most substantial work for solo piano. The four-movement suite finds the 20-year-old composer flexing his muscles and writing some incredibly descriptive music, whether the torrent of notes that depicts a swimmer at sea in ‘Early morning bathe’, or the bustling activity of ‘Fun-Fair’. Uttley caught the mood of these faster pieces, and he also found wistful and dark sides – the central outburst in the otherwise serene ‘Sailing’, and the sombre, thoughtful ‘Night’, turning to sleep at the end.

A carefully thought-out performance of Estampes concluded the concert. With good use of the pedal ‘Pagodes’ was richly textured and evocative, Uttley slowing effectively for the middle section. ‘La soirée dans Grenade’ was also carefully coloured, although a more persuasive lilt could have been applied to the Habanera-like rhythms. ‘Jardins sous la pluie’ proved a vivid depiction of rain, Uttley’s considerable virtuosity put to good use as he painted vivid versions of Debussy’s pictures in sound.

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