Monday, January 24, 2022

Wigmore Hall, London

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

Always welcome in London, the extravagantly gifted Hannover pianist Elisabeth Brauß, a recent BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, is one those players whose maturity and thinking belie her youth. No copier of others she has things to say, she experiments, she is fearless in the paths she takes. Her opening Scarlatti group – C-minor Kk56, C Kk159 ‘La caccia’, B-minor Kk27 & Kk87, G Kk427 – set the tenor of this recital. Robust on the one part, glistering on the other, purling runs, the lightest of staccato attacks, hand-crossings curvaceously integrated, fingerwork and body-motion exultantly at one with the calligraphy of the page and geography of the instrument. Mozart’s A-minor Sonata K310 was about turbulence, emotionally disbelieving anguish, and grittily urgent, fist-shaking development in the Allegro (more malevolent than maestoso); Beethovenian gran espressione in the Andante; and a rustling Finale as fleet as a spring breeze kissing a woodland canopy. Her slow playing was a thing of Old Masters fragility, the notes and phrases as if imagined and improvised on the spot, rhythmic yet supple, with all the time in the world to muse and breathe. Very private. Wondrously framed, sadly wistful, the major-key episode of the Finale could not have been gauged (or murmured) more finely, Oboe Quartet rondo cadences coming to mind. Microcosmically I wondered at some of the first movement’s gear shifts. Macrocosmically I could only admire a deeply thought-through reading, manner before mannerism. Mozart, the composer who dared calando (falling away) fourteen bars into the manuscript.

Ravel’s Sonatine left one in an astral blur of antique Gallicisms, gourmet spices, half-lights, Versailles fountains, intimate asides – a sensual paradise. Touch and tone were everything, Brauß lost in a dreamtime of her own, exquisiteness and voicing, ebb and flow, dynamic ascents and lingerings, articulation at a premium. Her ability to generate large-scale structure impressed, imparting a depth to the music way beyond what we usually hear. To close, Prokofiev’s Third Sonata. Brilliantly shaped passages of vertical/linear pianism – percussively cushioned, vocally eloquent – slower legato paragraphs of introspective meditation and placed beginnings and endings, architecture to the fore. The web of associative descriptions in the score offered scope for a stimulatingly responsive interpretation: “tempestuous, dry, tranquil, simple, sweet, ferocious, precipitous, agitated, with effect, rising, elevated, like trumpets …” For encore the C-major Prelude from Prokofiev’s Opus 12, chiselled Scarlatti-like precision, Russified Ravellian resonances and sunset pianissimos trembling the aether.