tue 21/09/2021

Hadland / Moser Brothers, Wigmore Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Hadland / Moser Brothers, Wigmore Hall

Hadland / Moser Brothers, Wigmore Hall

Two concerts show full-toned lucidity from the Norwegian, electric charge from the German-born duo

Johannes Moser, most live-wired of cellists

Prokofiev milestones stood proudly at the ends of the New Year’s first three major UK concert programmes.

The Second Piano Sonata raged as the zenith of the composer’s generous enfant terrible period in Christian Ihle Hadland’s journey through two centuries of piano masterpieces; the Fifth Symphony rocketed skywards in the hands of enthusiastic but also technically brilliant teenagers in Leeds, according to theartsdesk's Graham Rickson, and presumably in London too; and the late Cello Sonata celebrated outward simplicity alongside inner ambivalence in the electrifying duo performance of brothers Johannes and Benjamin Moser.

For the first live notes of 2016, though, it had to be Bach – it always has to be Bach – and never more of an energetic wake-up call than in the shape of the Italian Concerto. Hadland is a supreme master of lucidity, like his more easily marketed fellow Norwegian Leif Ove Andsnes. But while Andsnes offers pure spring water, Hadland likes to ride the rapids of more extreme repertoire, too. This Italian Concerto had the expected evenness of toccata attack, but it also challenged time and space like more romantic music, especially in the darker half of the Andante.

Christian Ihle HadlandThe rest of the programme might have been subtitled “fugitive visions” – the dark as well as the light, especially in the disturbing second theme of the opening movement in Beethoven’s early Op. 2 No. 2 sonata. Here Hadland (pictured right by Kim Laland) warned us to watch out in the extreme accenting that threatens to knock the mini-juggernaut off course. The monsters threatening the gracious Rondo were terrifying, full and fat. Mendelssohn’s fugitive is the only major-key sequence of his uncharacteristically painful Variations serieuses, light in the middle of well-controlled chromatic darkness, chorale chords of such effortless dignity in Hadland’s hands that we wanted them to stay for longer.

It was the same with Brahms’s two Op. 79 Rhapsodies, where melodies of such poignancy went under in the welter of notes all too quickly. Here Hadland’s very limited use of the sustaining pedal meant that no technical difficulties could be concealed; he mastered them all with total authority and meaningful phrasing. If there was any disappointment in the entire recital, it surfaced in the less than perfect articulation of Prokofiev’s first movement; but more monsters here, in the deveopment and the second movement, were equally well tamed in the right way, while the whirling finale was unleashed but not allowed to run rampant, ending in a chord that definitely didn't seek easy applause.

It took a bit of time to adjust to the relatively reticent tone of young Benjamin Moser (pictured below) the next morning, engaging more pedal in Rachmaninov’s dense piano-writing. But then if he hadn’t held back in the composer’s G minor Sonata, his brother Johannes might not have been heard so clearly. Phrases dovetailed neatly between the two musicians, and the endings of all four movements emphasised the total synchonicity and artistry of this duo.

Benjamin MoserIf in the Rachmaninov, Johannes’s lower register could sometimes be a touch too disembodied, and his use of vibrato (a matter of personal taste) a bit too strongly applied to melodic lines that need to soar, there could be no reservations at all about the Prokofiev. This bittersweet fruit of a time – post-1948 and the terrible show trials agains “formalism in music” – when everything had to be more “melodic” shows genius speaking truth to authority in the subtlest of ways. There is absolute nobility in the opening – no problem here with the lower register which Prokofiev exploits so superbly, nor the upper one which burned like the sun – only to be followed by a wavering between sadness and fragile optimism.

The brothers missed no trick in the composer’s secret armoury before going on to have fun with the childlike outer panels of the second movement; I’ve never heard a cellist get more playful variety out of the six-note phrase endings, and his pizzicati have unique vibrancy. Then, one of the greatest and most original melodies in all Prokofiev, both forthright and poignant, very different here from its half-voice companion in the rhythmically playful finale. And C major, a very New Year key, continued in the ardent encore, a perfectly executed transcription of the central Pas de Deux from Prokofiev’s Cinderella. Any reservations in either of these Wigmore events have to completely swept aside by the sheer, extra-mile perfection of Hadland’s Mendelssohn and the Mosers’ Prokofiev. I don’t expect to hear anything better this year, though I hope there will be plenty just as good.

C major, a very New Year key, continued in the ardent encore, a perfectly executed transcription of the central 'Pas de Deux' from Prokofiev’s 'Cinderella'

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters