Monday, May 3, 2021

Wigmore Hall, London

Jonathan Plowright opened his latest Wigmore Hall recital with Busoni’s mighty transcription of the ‘Chaconne’ from J. S. Bach’s D-minor Partita (BWV1004) for violin, a magisterial reading from the pianist, enticingly sotto voce to begin with before opening up in tempo and density, variety first and foremost, the music explored by arranger and interpreter alike for all its potential, whether soulful expression or blazing heroics, Plowright employing the most-delicate of touches or sonorous fortissimos as well as what lies in between: private thoughts and public display crammed into fifteen compelling minutes.

Such quietly spoken yet magnetic playing continued with Liszt’s Consolations, six in number, nocturnal and inward, always melodious and ‘speaking’ to the listener, subtly rendered by Plowright, a pianistic poet gently reading by the flicker of firelight. Finally, Grieg’s Holberg Suite (1884) – a tribute to the composer’s fellow-Norwegian, playwright Ludvig Holberg on the 200th-anniversary of his birth – in its original for-piano guise (the later string-orchestra version is now much the better known). Plowright played the five movements written “in olden style” with sparkling relish and – especially so in the fourth-movement ‘Air’ – much feeling.

Plowright offered an encore, Jacques Ibert’s ‘Little White Donkey’ (from Histoires), delightfully witty.