S&H Concert review

Piotr Anderszewski at Wigmore Hall Bach, Chopin & Janacek 5 May 2001

Piotr Anderszewski must be the only pianist whose publicists remind us, by way of recommendation and hype, that he withdrew from the Leeds Piano Competition instead of allowing the Judges to decide whether he should win. (There was a time, long ago, when some medical practitioners in another continent were said to put up plates in which they used to claim "MB BS failed" or suchlike, indicating that they had tried!)

My expectations of this live appearance were disappointed; Anderszewski seemed ill at ease, with variable concentration and surprising splashes of wrong notes, some in the not-very-difficult Bach Partita No 1, with which he chose to finish his recital. At the beginning, his account of Partita No 3 had offered me no pianistic or interpretative insights, and gave the impression that he had neither been interested to explore this music on instruments of Bach's time, nor to think about the researches of other pianists who have convinced us that there is very good reason to play them also on modern pianos (Angela Hewitt , one of the best of them, plays the Goldberg Variations and gives a Bach Interpretation Master Class at Wigmore Hall later in the month).

For Piotr Anderszewski to return to Bach after Chopin & Janacek was bound to be anticlimactic. Two Chopin Ballades had also been undistinguished, and throughout the evening Anderszewski showed a tendency to turn on loud and unlovely fortissimo, varied - sometimes arbitrarily - with passages in quiet pianissimo, but failing to find the best sonorities in the Steinway, which Benjamin Frith had achieved earlier the same week, with unerring taste and judgement, in a notable Wigmore Hall duo recital.

Best was Janacek's brooding In the mists, which had the right melancholy feel. I returned home hoping that he had just had a bad night, and that his newly released CD of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, with which Anderszewski has been especially associated, would redeem him in my ears, but I was repelled by a similar brutalism in his angry, digging fortissimi, unleavened by any sense of the wit which is also a component of this great work, one of those masterpieces that lend themselves to a variety of interpretations, and of which one can never tire. But do try it for yourselves - Virgin Classics: VC5454682.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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