Elegant and passionate playing

Jonathan Biss, Snape Proms. Snape maltings Concert Hall, August 11th / Liebeck and Wass, August 13th

The second week of the Snape Proms provided two splendid recitals. Born in 1980, The young American pianist Jonathan Biss has already established a fine international reputation. Hearing him for the first time, what impressed, beside his formidable technique, was a spontaneous musicality, immediately apparent in his reading of the first of Beethoven’s sonatas of Opus 10, in C Minor.Tempi were beautifully judged throughout, the first movement powerful without being too weighty, the adagio spacious yet perfectly maintaining the lyrical line, and a final prestissimo which still allowed the semiquavers to be crystal clear.

A penetrating account of the two extant movements of Janacek’s only piano sonata was followed by Schubert’s Sonata in C, D840, performed with true Schubertian sensibility. Finally, Biss’ supreme technique and artistry were fully displayed in a superb performance of Schumann’s most ambitious piano work Kreisleriana. A pianist we shall surely hear more of in the future.

At Friday’s recital, violinist Jack Liebeck and pianist Ashley Wass, stepping in at short notice for Anthony Marwood and Aleksander Madsar ? Madsar having to withdraw because of a back injury – delighted the audience with a programme of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Bloch.

Though initially the playing seemed a little restrained, Mozart’s late Sonata in B flat K 454 was elegantly performed, and it was refreshing to hear it played without its being subjected to an excess of “period” style.The other work in the first half, Beethoven’s Spring Sonata was equally enjoyable.


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Whatever slight reservations one might have had about the first half were swept away by a superb performance of Brahms’ G Major Sonata; warm passionate playing of great finesse in a perfectly balanced partnership. Bloch’s three Hasidic pieces, Baal Shem provided a showpiece finale.

Frank Cliff

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