Matan Porat, Wigmore Hall | reviews, news & interviews
Matan Porat, Wigmore Hall
Matan Porat, Wigmore Hall
Young Israeli pianist aims big, with intelligence to spare, in Ligeti, Rameau and Schubert
From now until 12 September, when Wigmore darling Iestyn Davies returns to open the new season, the biggest names in instrumental music are to be heard in the biggest venue, the Albert Hall. With all eyes and ears turned by maximum publicity towards the Proms, folk may have forgotten that the Wigmore Hall concerts were ongoing until last night. The finale was unexpectedly spectacular: while Leif Ove Andsnes was offering pure spring-water Beethoven over in South Kensington, young Israeli pianist Matan Porat served a hard-hitting cocktail of a programme, beginning and ending with fireworks but offering plenty of food for thought in between.
What a bracing opener Ligeti’s Musica ricercata makes (the composer around the time of composition, pictured below). Composed in the middle of the 20th century, it’s a seminal piece of musical development from one pitch to 12, though there are only 11 pieces because the first unexpectedly ends, with typically Ligetian wit beautifully timed by Porat, on a second note. Until then we’ve had a fantasia on all the As of the keyboard; you could call it Minimalism before its time, but there’s more rhythmic energy and surprise than in a whole act of a Philip Glass opera. Porat’s well-weighted volume and intelligence brought out fleeting allusions, especially to Hungarian music and to the then-inescapable Bartók, whom Ligeti homages in a serious memorial. The most spellbinding of the pieces is the seventh, with a hypnotic seven-note pattern in the left hand and a cantabile melody, which Porat delivered with a completely different voice, in the right.
Ligeti’s last piece, weaving a rich contrapuntal fantasy on a memorable, even singable twelve-note theme in homage to Frescobaldi, paved the way for Rameau’s Suite in A minor. Not much point in lamenting that the full-toned piano treatment was a million miles away from the harpsichord; Porat did occasionally scale down to ethereal sensitivity, but it never lasted for long. The concluding Gavotte et doubles, though, was an even, sweeping tour de force.
Yet did all that forceful sonority, reminiscent of one of Porat’s teachers, Murray Perahia, in its clarity but heading towards George Benjamin, with whom he studied composition, in its near-fury, bode well for Schubert’s great D959 Sonata in A major? At the interval I was anxious, but in the event Porat provided a transfixing frame for the abysses which open up beneath the all too mortal Schubert’s tuneful feet. There was forthright focus – and, thank goodness, an exposition repeat to show true love and respect for the master – in the first movement, and an angry development, until the coda, which made a poignant dissolve with several waves of Prospero's wand. And Porat did show long-awaited pathos in the still meditations of the miraculously simple Andantino, only to open up the ground once more for central terrors which sounded absolutely modern.
Perhaps the concluding Rondo could have shown more inward serenity to fight the incipient triumph of death (Schubert died, aged 31, shortly after completing his three last sonatas) but again Porat steered it towards a luminous end. His encores were just as intriguing – a simple transcription, presumably the composer’s piano original, of the Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony, which went at the natural, unaffected pace you hear in Mahler acolyte Mengelberg’s recording; and pure virtuoso fun in the pianist’s own, Rachmaninov-style transcription of Piazzolla’s infinitely adaptable Libertango. Do try and hear this singular and confident voice among pianists when he returns in November.
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