César Franck

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Franz Liszt Academy of Music, 8 Liszt Ferenc Square, Budapest, Hungary

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

A meeting of generations. On the one hand the extravagantly gifted Kelemen Quartet, re-formed earlier this year: Barnabás Kelemen, Jonian Ilias Kadesha (violins), Katalin Kokas (viola), Vashti Mimosa Hunter (cello) https://kelemenquartet.com/home. On the other Péter Frankl, eighty-six last month, who studied at the Liszt Academy under Kodály and Leo Weiner, lived through the Budapest Ghetto, and arrived in London in 1961, a decade later establishing a celebrated piano trio with his compatriot György Pauk and the American cellist Ralph Kirshbaum. Attending their recitals, listening to them on BBC Radio Three, was a daily part of one’s life. Back for this concert in his alma mater, he and the Kelemen – physically recorded, close-up visuals, at one with each other, fiercely within the music – stoked the fires like I’ve rarely heard. Anyone can ‘read-play’ the Franck and Brahms Quintets. It takes a special kind of intensity, imagination and delivery to ‘Olivier’ them. Frankl rose to the challenge imperiously, his strengths as chamber player and solo pianist, facility and control unimpaired by age, sculpting epic, starry vistas of glory and confession. Here were alpine peaks, tough escarpments, vales of wondrous beauty. Great works turned into god-like ones, unrelenting onward momentum and enormous reserves of rhythmic tension and ‘bite’ contributing to their mightiness. Here was ungarnished F-minor drama of Classical strength and Romantic declamation, art and artist triumphantly ablaze. Five intimately involved musicians watching each other, responsive to every phrase, nuance and timbre, never letting go. Big-boned chamber music, still bigger-boned orchestral symphony, was the sum of the exercise. Steinway D at full lid, adrenalin surging. The exhilaration of the Brahms Scherzo, an inflamed explosion of creative and re-creative genius, left one reeling. The slow movements touched the soul – Franck’s long-lined, unlaboured, Brahms’s Schubertian allusions vocally forward, Frankl willing the latter to speak at face value without sentimentality or ‘period’ restraint. A privilege to witness.