Concert Review

Lars Vogt (piano) Wigmore Hall, 5 December 1999

Now 29, Lars Vogt has become one of the most distinguished former Leeds prizewinners. This was a characteristically individual recital programme. Brahms was represented by the early Ballades. The first is a setting (almost as exact as if it had been a song) of the gruesome Edward Scots ballad, with a build up of violence leading to patricide. Brahms later composed a vocal duet, setting the same ballad. The others in the Op 10 set do not have explicit programmes. Vogt maintained a dark, romantic piano texture, with emphasis on the bass, and inner parts given their due. Pedalling was well considered. He followed with Liszt's Ballade No 2, B minor emerging from chromatic rumblings in the depths, contrasted with a brighter, Chopinesque, F# melody. The tone remained pellucid in the more brilliant passages, without the excessive brightness so common in Liszt. I was not alone in going up to the platform in the interval and discovering, against expectation, that the instrument was, indeed, a Steinway. Was it Vogt's prescribed preparation, or his control of the tone in his playing, I cannot know?

He began the second part with recent Variations by the Moscow composer Tatiana Komorova, a ten minute piece based on an 11 bar theme with alternating rhythmic structure. A little reminiscent of Webern at first, though less austere, her serial variations sounded natural and comfortably pianistic, some peaceful, others dancelike and virtuosic. They are in press with Schott, and recommended for pianists to explore as a very acceptable recital item.

Komorova's compact Sonata (1990) is published by Schott (ED 8299) and is also very pianistic, lying well under the hands and rewarding for study by moderately advanced non-professional players. It is recorded by Lars Vogt together with Mussorgsky and Tchaikowsky (EMI Classics 7545482).

Finally, a powerfully compelling performance of Beethoven's Appassionata sonata, with a range of dynamics and tone, inconceivable upon a piano of the day. Lars Vogt has an economical playing manner, with no histrionics. His pedalling is well considered and he differentiates clearly between composers. He conveys a feeling that there is a direct link between thought and fingertips, with no technical impediment between. He chose not to give an encore, but his audience departed well satisfied. Lars Vogt is building up an impressive discography and his appearances are worth catching.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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