Rudolf Buchbinder in Rome

Rudolf Buchbinder in Rome
I remember attending Buchbinder’s Royal Festival Hall recital and concerto debut when he was only 16.
Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini I remember well although only just a teenager at the time.
I also remember the Schubert Impromptus op.90 that were on the programme today in Rome in the magnificent Renzo Piano Complex of the Parco della Musica.
Performing in the medium sized hall named after Giuseppe Sinopoli it was sold out for his long awaited recital of Beethoven and Schubert.
I was very happy to be able to listen to him again fifty years on.
Now celebrating his 70th birthday.
Very rare appearances with orchestras both in London and Rome and strangely never a recital until now.
Last summer a Beethoven Sonata Cycle at the Edinburgh Festival and Brahms 2 at the RFH a few weeks ago are strangely the only appearances of this seasoned performer with a career spanning over five decades.
I can happily say that his performances were the very opposite of Yuja Wang yesterday at the RFH .
His sense of projection was paramount but it is very interesting to analize the differences between them.
Beginning with the Sonata op 13 “Pathetique” it was immediately apparent the authority of the performer . Some really impressive things at the opening with the great declamation and the quiet pleading reply.
A real sense of orchestra but also a telling personality with small unperceivable inflections that really made the music talk.
But the moment we got to the con brio we were treated to a rather brutal matter of fact rhythmic playing along the lines of the famous Vitale school of playing where precision takes precedence over sound and shape.
His rather brutal prodded bass questions were replied by the same brutal reply from the treble. In fact throughout the recital we were aware of the good traditional teutonic almost orchestral cantabile from the school of Backhaus or Richter Haaser.
Of course neither were as matter of fact as Buchbinder today but the approach was very similar .
Long almost orchestral lines with a severe.teutonic no nonsense approach that was at odds with the extremely expressive and subtly personal playing of the quieter sections.
In the opening Impromptu op 90 by Schubert the theme was played with such a subtle telling rubato contrasting with the staccato chords that followed but the moment the volume augmented we were again in this rather brutal matter of fact world
The second Impromptu where the jeux perle can sound so magical in say Murray Perahias hands here sounded rather prosaic and almost mechanical.
In trying not to sentimentalise the glorious melodic invention of the G flat Impromptu it sounded strangely robust and missed the sheer beauty of Schubert’s sublime inspiration. The last impromptu was also too serious and the lightness and almost capricious character was substituted for a seriousness that was out of place.
Some beautiful things in the little G major Sonata op 14.n.2 . by Beethoven but the buoyant playfulness was somehow missing in the final movement.
The Appassionata given a very musicianly reading but the good traditional cantabile did not allow enough room for the contrasts that are so much a part of this revolutionary work.. The coda in the last movement for example is quite clearly marked by the composer with sforzandi and pianos but here was played with an ever generous mezzo forte throughout. The slow movement on the other hand was a real cortege of orchestral proportions that cut out all the usual sentiment so out of place here . The last movement although generating a certain excitement lacked in tonal contrast .
An encore of the last movement of the Sonata op 31.n.2 only went to confirm the teutonic seriousness of this fine artist . Little did we expect what he would treat his imploring audience to next .
Right at the end we got a display of such subtle romantic virtuosity that one could only wonder why had he not used the same fabulous resources to illuminate his overserious classical repertoire.
A transcription of Strauss – his own I suspect- with all the phenomenal feats of pianistic virtuosity that we associate with the likes of Rosenthal and Lhevine.
Not only that but a subtle use of rubato and colour that left us wondering why some of this arsenal that he had at his finger tips had he not used in his musicianly performances played in the good old traditional style but rather too standardly predictable .

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