Szymon Nehring at the Wigmore Hall
What an evening with Menahem Pressler , Peter Frankl , Noretta Conci and John Leech from the Keyboard Trust and many other distinguished musicians.
All present to celebrate the winner of the 2017 Rubinstein International Piano Competition in the hall where that great man Arthur Rubinstein gave his last public performance in 1976 to try to prevent the hall from being demolished.
In fact a programme of works very much associated with Rubinstein :Beethoven’s Appassionata and the Funeral March Sonata of Chopin.
Followed by works dedicated to him by his great friends Szymanowski: Mazukas op 50 1-4 and Variations op 3 and Stravinsky ending with the three movements from Petrushka .
Great discussions afterwards between Menahem Pressler and Peter Frankl not only about tonight’s programme but also taking in Kurtag,Dohnanyi and Schumann not to mention Cortot,Casadesus,Moszkowski and Perlemuter.
Two of the greatest musicians of our day in amicable discussion about music and musicians.
Pressler about to record with Matthias Goerne Schumann’s Dichterliebe and Kinderscenen and Peter Frankl to play on the 13th in Budapest chamber works by Dohnanyi.
All present to salute a new young colleague, winner of the competition that bears the name of the much loved and never forgotten Arthur Rubinstein.
Simon Nehring,in 2017, the first Polish pianist to win the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv, having studied in Krakow with Prof Stefan Wojtas and Olga Lazarska is now at Yale University in the class of Boris Berman.
It is hardly surpring that the highlight of the concert was to be found in the refined and subtle tone palate of his compatriot Karol Szymanowski.
The four little Mazurkas op 50 that Rubinstein used to play after the interval in an all Chopin programme almost like taking a sorbet before continuing with the feast.
Here played with that same sense of rhythm and dance that is so much part of the Polish tradition.
A real sense of colour that had somehow eluded him in the first half where the great Appassionata although played with true authority seemed strangely black and white.
I well remember the wonderful second subject of the Allegro assai first movement in Rubinstein’s hands given all the time to unfold as he directed the great orchestra that he had in his ten magical fingers.
Although the tempo was admirably maintained with superlative technical command tonight the great Beethovenian contrasts and sense of orchestral colours were missing.
Some beautiful things in the Andante con moto cortege and a wonderful question mark before plunging into the Allegro ma non troppo.
Here again rather too fast to allow Beethoven’s innate orchestral sense to tell.
A coda played with almost superhuman precision at breakneck speed with breathtaking virtuosity.
It was just a pity for his really intelligent musicianship not to take the time necessary to give more character to this, one of the mightiest of all Beethoven’s Sonatas.
A beautiful opening to the Chopin Sonata op 35 and the whispering of the opening theme was superbly well controlled .
I missed the sumptuous colours of the second subject and the grandeur of the bass notes in the devolpment though.
The second movement rather too fast and monocrome with no real sense of dance but rather a fantastically played study.
A beautiful Marche funebre even though the trills in the left hand were rather too percussive and intrusive at times. The Trio in particular played with great poise and control.
The last movement was played with enviable clarity and superb virtuosity but did it really sound like the wind on the graves?
The Szymanowski early variations in B flat minor op 3 were played with all the colours allied to superb virtuosity and musicianship that had obviously contributed to his success in the Rubinstein Competition.
A real sense of sumptuous colour and a very refined palate allied to a great sense of line and forward direction .Leading to a final Allegro con fuoco that brought this rarely heard piece to a brilliant end.
The three Movements from Petrushka were played with astonishing virtuosity and sense of colour but I could not help feeling that there was no real sense of the dance in the Danse Russe or La Semaine Grasse.
The rather clean and clear sparse use of the pedal brought this mighty orchestral piano transcription into the realm of Stravinsky’s own definition of the the piano being nothing but a utility instrument that sounds right only as percussion.
A standing ovation and as an encore a beautiful little piece by Paderewski charmingly announced by this great young virtuoso and was played with all that same colour and sense of style that he had brought to his other compatriot Szymanowski this evening.