Review: Miklos Perenyi, Cello, Snape Proms, August 6th & 8th

Miklos Perenyi, Cello, Snape Proms, August 6th & 8th

The celebrated Hungarian cellist Miklos Perenyi appeared twice on the Maltings stage in this year’s Snape Proms and over the two evenings demonstrated his superb but unshowy technique and musicianship in a range of compositions from the twentieth century.

His entry onto the platform for his first recital was quiet and self-effacing, barely registering with the audience before moving quietly into the chant-like solemnity of the opening Lento of Britten’s third cello suite. Perenyi’s refined technique and awareness of the dark undercurrents of the music made for deeply satisfying listening.

For the remaining works he was joined by the pianist Greta Dowdeswell, whose fluent technique and clarity of tone were particularly well suited to Poulenc’s Sonata for cello and piano. Perenyi produced a wonderful cantabile in the wistful Cavatina and Dowdeswell provided bright and sparky accompaniment in the quicker movements. Kodaly’s Sonatina drew some intense playing from both performers as the music probed some darker corners.

Shostakovitch’s D minor sonata of 1934 demonstrates once again the composer’s versatility and rich supply of musical ideas. The ending of the first movement was particularly effective and both players drew sombre yet passionate sounds from their instruments in the Largo. The succeeding Allegro movements contain plenty of trademark energy and superficial humour but with Shostakovitch there are usually darker undercurrents and the crisp, incisive playing resulted in an exhilarating journey, full of twists and turns.

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In the second concert Perenyi was joined by the talented players of the Britten-Pears Orchestra, conducted by the still youthful and increasingly lauded Robin Ticciati. The chosen work, Britten’s Cello Symphony, was written for Rostropovich and it is an inventive and ingenious piece, although it lacks the big, memorable tunes one finds, for example, in Dvorak’s concerto. Perenyi avoided any hint of showiness and delivered an admirably balanced performance in which the many musical strands all seemed to have their place in the overarching structure, while also giving us many arresting moments, such as the whispered fragments in the second movement and a searching introspection in the bridging cadenza. The orchestra were on their toes throughout, the brass and percussion responding particularly crisply. Ticciati had the measure of this sometimes elusive work and conducted a performance that offered both elucidation and enjoyment.

The music of Anton Bruckner has not featured much at Aldeburgh and the decision to set his fourth symphony alongside a work of one of his severest critics is to be applauded. Once again Ticciati’s grasp of the architecture of the symphony was amply evident; the fortissimo endings of the movements blazed with a sense of achievement and finality and the episodic finale did not lapse into anti-climax. The huge dynamic range was generally well judged and only occasionally did one wonder if venue and composer were entirely compatible (yes, they are). The technical skill and musical awareness of the players were of high order although the principal horn was sometimes too dominant. Overall, this was a strong and enjoyable performance by a team who appear destined to be leading lights in the musical world for many years.

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Gareth Jones

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