Monday, June 08, 2020

Wigmore Hall, London

Steven Isserlis and Mishka Rushdie Momen (the latter a pianist much-admired by Richard Goode) opened this latest without-audience Wigmore Hall recital – number six of twenty weekday lunchtime programmes that are being broadcast live for ears and eyes – with Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Cello (his ordering) in F, Opus 5/1. Isserlis probed the slow introduction and the performers sparkled in the extensive Allegro (its stature enhanced by having the lengthy exposition repeated) – yet the duo was set a little distantly on BBC Radio 3; fine in itself if not as immediate as is the case within the Hall, wherever you sit. Nevertheless the players’ rapport was evident and Mishka Rushdie Momen (whose mentors include Imogen Cooper) impressed with her delicate touch and crisp articulation, and from this duo the second and final movement danced with rustic vitality.

Originally for oboe and piano, Robert Schumann’s Three Romances, Opus 94, sit well on the cello’s capability for warmly sustained lyrical lines; these three expressive gems (akin to bedtime stories) were generously phrased by Isserlis and sensitively supported by the pianist. Finally, Fauré’s Sonata No.1 for Cello and Piano (D-minor, Opus 109, 1917), which once again showed Isserlis’s devotion to this attractively elusive composer. This late work (Fauré was already in his early-seventies) fascinates in its unpredictability of harmony and emotion, fragrantly French if not without sinew when passions rise to the surface. The lovely slow movement seems to speak of things past, with some intensity at its midpoint, and the Finale rhapsodises eloquently, the work’s culmination hinted at and then economically delivered.

A great Radio 3 tradition was then upheld: the schedule may have been running late but that didn’t stop an encore: Isserlis’s judicious duo-arrangement of a Bach Chorale Prelude (familiar through Busoni’s piano transcription). Sublime.