GRAMOPHONE AWARDS SHORTLIST 2019
S A C K S
J O N A S
P H O T O G R A P H Y
little quotation from Debussy’s L’aprèsmidi d’une faune.
As for the actual sound, superb playing and ravishing engineering intertwine here to stunning effect. It’s a modern set-up – Ibragimova on a 1775 Anselmo Bellosio strung with metal, with Tiberghien on a very beautiful and relatively new Steinway D – and it serves as a reminder that you don’t necessarily need period instruments to bring a lightness and air-filled delineation to these densely textured late-Romantic works. (In fact, note here that if your personal taste is for something slightly lusher-textured or bigger-boned then you may wish to stick with Dumay and Pires, or perhaps Hadelich and Yang).
Still, listen to the sombre depth and steadily direct tone Ibragimova brings to the Poème élégiaque’s central grave et lent section, and the rich sonority of Tiberghien’s accompanying death knells. Or the gripping passion with which Ibragimova delivers both its soaring long lines and its virtuoso moments. Moving on to the Franck, soak up the weightless, time-suspended softness with which they begin: from Ibragimova a sweet, even sound that’s light-toned without being lightweight, supported by a touch from Tiberghien at the keyboard that sounds like mellow, amber-hued raindrops, and all the while a gradual crescendo and strengthening of tone from both so subtle that it happens almost imperceptibly. Another joy is the expansive third movement with its succession of contrasts between crescendos to climaxes – which come long-spun, unegged and noble from Ibragimova – and the softest and sweetest of pianissimo dolcissimo interludes. Then after that, hear the further contrast provided by the final movement’s sunny-hued velocity.
The Vierne Allegro risoluto equally showcases sharper-edged energy, and yet more golden tenderness with its Andante sostenuto. Add the palette-cleansing Boulanger, and this is wall-to-wall wonderful. Charlotte Gardner (3/19)
Haydn Piano Trios, HobXV – No 14; No 18; No 21; No 26; No 31 Trio Wanderer Harmonia Mundi F HMM90 2321 (69’ • DDD)
Five Haydn piano trios trace a passage from light to darkness – well,
almost. The Trio Wanderer open with the serious (and seriously underrated) A flat major (No 14) and finish up with two of the most profound of all these works, those in F sharp major and E flat minor (Nos 26 and 31), in between skipping through the highest of Haydn’s jinks in the A and C major Trios (Nos 18 and 21).
These are beautifully played performances, set in a generous enough acoustic (the Teldex Studio in Berlin) to give each instrument full voice: the pizzicato accompaniment to the piano’s cantilena in No 14, for example, is pleasingly plump. There is enough clarity around each instrument to make every line audible, which hasn’t necessarily been the case in the Wanderer’s previous recordings of Romantic music, although the sparer textures of the Classical trio style help greatly in this respect.
Favourite moments: the whipcrack finales of the two ‘lighter’ works (Nos 18 and 21), played with a natural élan that can’t fail to raise a smile. Also the cantabile piano line in the central slow movement of No 26 – adapted either from or into the Adagio of Symphony No 102, where the melody is tellingly transferred to the cello – played here with an ecstatic freedom of pulse by Vincent Coq. The disc closes on a hopeful note, with the ‘Jacob’s Dream’ Allegro of the bipartite E flat minor forming the ideal foil to the austerity of its opening movement.
This is the Wanderer’s return to Haydn on disc after a gap of a decade and a half. The late Duncan Druce remarked of their first Haydn disc (Harmonia Mundi, 5/02) that ‘it’s a treat to hear Haydn trios played with such care for their sound and texture’. The same holds true today; and please, let’s not be made to wait until 2034 for the third volume! David Threasher (6/18)
Shostakovich Piano Quintet, Op 57a. String Quartet No 3, Op 73 a Piotr Anderszewski pf Belcea Quartet Alpha F ALPHA360 (68’ • DDD)
Shostakovich is something of a departure on disc for both the
Belcea Quartet and Piotr Anderszewski but a very welcome one. These two works have long been in their concert repertoire and it shows. They look at the Quintet with fresh eyes and that is evident from the outset. The pianist’s opening soliloquy has power and a directness of emotion, which is matched by the Belcea, but it’s at the point where the music moves into 3/8 (a minute and a half in) that this performance becomes a real ear-opener. How much wistfulness they find here, and Corina Belcea’s tone as she reaches heavenwards is utterly heart-rending. The Takács with Hamelin tend to be more straightforwardly warm at this point.
The fugal second movement has a particularly engaging fragility, Corina Belcea laying the subject bare with the merest touch of vibrato, which is then matched unerringly by fellow violinist Axel Schacher. There’s grim playfulness in abundance in the Scherzo, Anderszewski bright-toned but never aggressivesounding, while the shocking torpor of the fourth movement is even more strikingly conveyed than in Argerich’s wonderfully responsive performance with Capuçon et al. The Intermezzo was a particular highlight of the Hamelin/Takács performance but this new performance is on a similar level. Anderszewski and the Belcea perfectly capture the finale’s unsettling mix of quasi-innocence and dark intensity, though if you want something altogether more sharp-tongued, more threatening, Argerich and friends are pretty much unbeatable.
The Third String Quartet is every bit as successful, setting off with an almost Prokofievian sense of the dance. The absolute certainty of ensemble is one of the joys of the Belcea, but just as important is their fearlessness, and their reactivity, capturing the music’s emotional shifts unerringly. How deliciously insouciant, for≈example, are the last two notes of the first movement, a mood immediately shattered by the stridently insistent motif with which the viola launches the second movement; or the contrast between chordal writing and poignant recitative of the fourth. The Belcea are a shade slower than the Emerson, not only here but throughout the quartet, and it makes for a more interesting reading; in the grimly violent third movement, for instance, the Belcea find more grit in the mix, while the Americans sound just a tad relentless. Shostakovich’s finale maintains the intensity of the previous movements and the Belcea respond in kind. A tremendous addition to the Shostakovich discography. Harriet Smith (7/18) Piano Quintet – selected comparisons: Hamelin, Takács Qt (5/15) (HYPE) CDA67987 Argerich, R Capuçon, Margulis, Chen, Maisky (11/07) (EMI/WARN) 504504-2 String Quartet No 3 – selected comparison: Emerson Qt (6/00R) (DG) 475 7407DC5
6 GRAMOPHONE SHORTLIST 2019