sat 24/03/2018

Prohaska, Eberle and Friends, Wigmore Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Prohaska, Eberle and Friends, Wigmore Hall

Prohaska, Eberle and Friends, Wigmore Hall

A mix of European chamber musicians with some surprising limitations

Violinist Veronika EberleFelix Broede / Askonas Holt

A quick plot summary might be required here, because how this programme of Schubert, Pergolesi and Webern came into being was far from obvious. Two young soloists, one a violinist in her late twenties, one a singer in her early thirties, both born in Swabia (part of Bavaria), share the same agent and wanted to do a project together. So they are currently on an eight-date concert tour of five European countries. Their company for this journey is a team including some of the elite and most experienced European players of chamber music. And the consequences were...

Well, the first, the most incontrovertible and probably obvious fact is that there are some astonishingly fine chamber musicians around. Take the French-born horn player Radovan Vlatković. It took him a few moments at the beginning of the Schubert Octet to settle his embouchure, but once in place, the glorious tone, the flawless time and phrasing just poured forth, as it has for the past four decades or so.

Quirine ViersenThen there were some of the string players. Bassist Rick Stotijn’s way of adding weight to the bass line when required, but also of playing with infinite delicacy and restraint, were things to just marvel at. The German violist Danusha Waskiewicz and Dutch cellist Quirine Viersen (pictured right by Marco Borggreve) were both ever-attentive and supportive. Viersen in particular gave the performance of the cello part of the Schubert Octet you would hope to hear in heaven. The cello in the Octet has a subsidiary, speak-only-when-you-are-spoken-to kind of part, but her every nuance was serenely paced, and her interpretation of the awkward phrase shapes in the cello variation of the Andante were very special. This concert will live in the memory thanks to Viersen’s life-enhancing cello playing. 

And then there was clarinettist Pascal Moraguès, who treated every note of the clarinet part in the Octet like the present it is. He also shone in the encore, when he unwrapped another of Schubert's perfect gifts to players of the instrument, the obbligato part in the 's "Romanze" from the crusades Singspiel Die Verschworenen.

And then the two featured artists: Anna Prohaska (pictured below left), who performed in the brief first half – done and dusted in less than half an hour – was very fine indeed in the Schubert Salve Regina. The main need in that piece is to be musical, to float an exquisite, melismatic high melodic line. That she did, and very beautifully. She then sang a 70-second Webern miniature Schmerz immer, Blick nach oben, the briefest of characterful glimpses into an arid expressionist nightmare.

The Pergolesi C minor Salve Regina, its opening very reminiscent of the same composer’s Stabat Mater, however, exposed some limitations. There was a distinct lack of vocal strength in the lower tessitura which the part required, and diction had a tendency to become indistinct, particularly in the “Eia Ergo” section.

Violinist Veronika Eberle led the group well in the first half, but in the Schubert again and again there were wilful and wayward lapses when she was responding to phrases that had already been played. She seemed determined to put herself at odds with the shared syntax of the other players. In the Adagio she was taking a different view of the ornaments, in the following allegro she had a different perception of how the dotted rhythms were weighted, and in the Andante variations she just lagged behind the beat. That said, her dovetailing with Pascal Moraguès at the end of the Minuet was a delight.

If I found limitations from the two young featured artists, and was starting to wonder about the kind of cocooning which these agent-backed soloists appear to have, mine was a minority view. This was an audience single-minded in its determination to compensate for what it lacked in numerical strength (the hall was not quite half-full) in the volume of its football-ishly loud – and not quite Wigmore-ish – whooping and cheering.

This concert will live in the memory thanks to Viersen’s life-enhancing cello playing


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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