Andsnes and Hamelin at the Wigmore

Andsnes and Hamelin at the Wigmore
Leif Ove Andsnes and Marc Andre Hamelin at the Wigmore Hall
A much awaited concert by two of the greatest piano virtuosi of our day.
Wonderful to be greeted by two great Steinway pianos on stage but also a bit worrying to think about the amount of sound that might emanate from them.
I well remember in Siena when we were students in the late 60’s there was the famous piano duo of Gorini/Lorenzi.
In the resonant concert hall of the Chigiana Palace the best place to hear the concert was in the Campo or main square!
No need to worry tonight as it was soon obvious that we were in the presence of two remarkably intelligent musicians as was heard from the very first notes of a concert which included works by Mozart,Debussy and Stravinsky.
A very rarely heard Larghetto and Andante by Mozart completed by that remarkable musician Paul Badura Skoda in the 1960’s.
Followed by Stravinsky’s Concerto for two pianos and Debussy Suite En Blanc e Noir.
Total unity of style and musicianship led to absorbing performances where one was not even aware that there were two players .
The Mozart played with such style and wit where there was a real dialogue between the two players .Some beautiful colours but above all a unity of sound that was never allowed to overwhelm the music or the listener.
Wonderfully clean and clear pungent rhythms in the almost impersonal style of the Stravinsky of the ’20’s where the composer was looking for clean lines and using the piano principally as a percussion instrument breaking away from the great romantic tradition .
The Debussy too written near the end of the composers life the final movement dedicated to Stravinsky with whom Debussy had played the four hand version of the Rite of Spring.
But all this was just a prelude to the massive onslaught that these two musicians brought to the Rite of Spring played on two pianos.
I well remember Barenboim and Ashkenazy playing the four hand version at the South Bank Festival which was quite memorable .
Nothing,however, could have prepared us for the magnificence of what we heard tonight.
It was a quite riveting performance that held the sold out house on the edge of their seats from the beginning to the end .
The insistent driving rhythms especially from Andsnes and the clarity of the melodic line from Hamelin amalgamated into a glorious whole where we were totally swept along like in a “beautiful nightmare” to use Debussy’s own words.
These two great artist spontaneously embracing each other at the end as they too were aware that this had indeed been a once in a lifetime performance that not even they could have imagined
Superfluous to say that it was absolutely note perfect and that the treacherous difficulties were dispatched with all the colours of a symphony orchestra. There was such an insistent almost savage rhythmic drive that an almost hypnotic tension was created on which they could float all the details of Stravinsky’s revolutionary score.
A standing ovation from an audience that is amongst the most refined and discerning of all London audiences but that even they were caught up in the animal excitement that was generated .
Stravinsky’s Tango and Circus Polka were two encores offered by these ever generous artists Played with all the wit and charm of a Stravinsky who occasionally chose to let his hair down.

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