mon 04/03/2024

Grosvenor, Park, Ridout, Soltani, Wigmore Hall review - chamber music supergroup in perfect accord | reviews, news & interviews

Grosvenor, Park, Ridout, Soltani, Wigmore Hall review - chamber music supergroup in perfect accord

Grosvenor, Park, Ridout, Soltani, Wigmore Hall review - chamber music supergroup in perfect accord

Thoughtful programming puts quirky novelty alongside big beasts

Violinisgt Hyeyoon Park, pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, viola-player Timothy Ridout and cellist Kian SoltaniBoth images c Wigmore Hall Trust

Frank Bridge’s Phantasie Piano Quartet was astutely described by his student Benjamin Britten as “Brahms tempered with Fauré”, so it made a lot of sense to programme it alongside the first piano quartets of those other composers. A “supergroup” of brilliant young soloists came together as an ensemble as tight as any that plays together every day, and made a committed case for each piece.

All three were written by composers around their thirtieth birthdays – and the players at the Wigmore Hall last night were of a similar vintage. They put their all into the Bridge, even if this 12-minute piece will always remain something of a peculiarity. Bridge’s early style is firmly Victorian, but in the Phantasie Quartet he is starting on the harmonic journey that reached its apotheosis in the extraordinary Piano Sonata of 1924.

Right from the start the strings were in absolute accord, both in terms of co-ordination but also intent and sound. This was mostly a full and passionate attack although there were moments of dreamy violin from Hyeyoon Park. and all four paced the magical ending to perfection.

The Fauré was what I was really there for: a wonderful, striking piece that was initially rejected by his publisher. The fool. It is irresistible and I really enjoyed this reading, although at times felt it could have had a touch more Gallic insouciance. The passages of flutey lightness in the first movement were a welcome pleasure amid the weightiness of most of it. But that is a minor quibble as it really was very good, not just in the muscular outer movements but in the mischievous scherzo and rhapsodic slow movement. Grosvenor, Park, Ridout and Soltani at the Wigmore HallAs ever with Romantic chambers music, the pianist does a lot of the heavy lifting. If he was paid by the note Benjamin Grosvenor would have walked away with quadruple the fee of the others, but his arpeggio accompaniments were always dancing, whether delicate filigree or beefy show-off moments. I do worry about his posture and hope he isn’t saving up a bad back in his future, and it is a miracle how, from his hunched looming over the piano, playing of quicksilver delicacy emerges.

I will confess that Brahms’s chamber music is a bit of a blind-spot for me. Perhaps it is the scale, the density of the textures, or the perhaps somewhat unremitting earnestness of tone. I don’t know, but this performance did a lot to shake me out of what I admit is my own failing. Violist Timothy Ridout and cellist Kian Soltani were locked together in their dialogues and there were arresting moments like the wrenching harmonies of the last paragraph of the first movement. Likewise the “shivering” section of the third movement, Hyeyoon Park’s bow moving like lightning, and the engaging oddness of the alla Zingarese finale.

And then the encore, the Andante from Schumann’s Piano Quartet, struck me as the slow movement that the Brahms really needed. It was enchantingly played, Soltani’s cello tune achingly beautiful, a harmonic quirkiness that led down several garden paths, and a “just so” ending, placed just where Brahms might have given us another five minutes.

Bernard Hughes on Bluesky

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