Graham Johnson with Linn Rothstein – where would we all be without them?
And so Julien had prepared us for the main menu…just as the great pianists of the past would improvise interludes between one work and another.Preparing the way and making sure that our ears were ready and truly thankful for what we were about to receive!
In fact it was a beautifully fluid Mozart that at times with his care not to produce percussive sounds we missed that absolute precision of which both Pires and De Larrocha were masters.One could almost say that he loves the music too much and in his attempt to shape the phrases he gave himself a little too much freedom.The music lost its sense of forward propulsion and inner rhythmic energy.
The legato of the Andante cantabile was extremely beautiful as he crouched over the keyboard to find the whispered secrets within.
The Allegretto grazioso too suffered a little from this lack of absolute, almost clockwork, precision that Schnabel described so well as :’Too easy for children and too difficult for grown ups!’
It was in the Bach G minor English Suite that he came into his own
A rocksteady pulse allied to his great sense of characterisation.
An almost hypnotic sense of rhythm gave great architectural shape and allowed full range to his extraordinary sense of imagination and colour.
A beautifully fluid Allemande and the rhythmic propulsion of the Courante all leading to the very heart of this Suite which is the Sarabande.
Played with such subtle colours and with great aristocratic bearing that was indeed very moving.
The Gavotte seemed a little too fast but contrasted so well with the childlike simplicity of the whispered Musette.
I thought the Gigue could have been more carefully articulated but this was a very personal vision that was totally convincing.
It was the vision of a real artist and thinking musician.
His magnificent performance of the 24 Preludes held his audience spellbound on a journey of such variety,passion and rhythmic drive allied to moments of sublime beauty and calm.
It will live with me for a long time to come.
Fou Ts’ong describes them as 24 problems but in Julien’s hands they were 24 jewels in a crown of such radiance I doubt the Wigmore Hall has resounded with a performance of this stature for a long time.
The very leisurely opening contrasted with the very dramatic lento where a whole world of emotion was envisaged in just one page.
The joy of the vivace where the melodic line floated on a wave of sound was followed by the touching simplicity of the E minor Largo.The fifth appeared out of the last chord leading into the poignant B minor Lento assai that in turn ended so delicately to prepare the scene for the innocence of the Andantino.
The passion and subtle colours of the Molto Agitato n.8 was matched by the frenzied dance of the 12th in G sharp minor.The astonishing transcendental difficulties of the 16th were played with a real Presto con fuoco where he threw himself with great excitement into the swirling mist of notes and extracted himself with such drama after the final rising scales.
The so called ‘Raindrop’ prelude was played with such disarming simplicity as was the beautiful F sharp lento with such ravishing beauty.The A flat bell toll of the 17th had created such magic that the recitativo of the 18th came as such an astonishingly dramatic contrast.The E flat vivace of very subtle difficulty was played with a beautiful almost pastoral calm.The final chord preparing us for the great C minor prelude that has been taken as the theme by many other composers for variations.
Played with great poise and almost religious calm.
An enormous full sound never hard from the left hand octaves in the 22nd prelude and the beautiful fluidity of the penultimate led so well into the passionate final excitement of the final D minot Allegro Appassionato.
The final three D’s played with great dramatic effect.
A truly memorable performance of such a well know work just demonstrated the great and original artistry of this young musician.
A sublime performance of the Andante spianato was the ideal way to thank such an attentive audience .
But as Mitsuko Uchida rightly says a great performance should live in your memory and remain with you as a joy forever.
It will certainly be that in this debut recital by Julien Brocal.