sat 24/10/2020

Louis Schwizgebel, Fidelio Orchestra Café review – gilt-edged postcards from around the world | reviews, news & interviews

Louis Schwizgebel, Fidelio Orchestra Café review – gilt-edged postcards from around the world

Louis Schwizgebel, Fidelio Orchestra Café review – gilt-edged postcards from around the world

Sonority first in Debussy and Musorgsky, plus profound Brahms cello-and-piano surprises

Louis Schwizgebel: massive but never overwhelming sound in MusorgskyBoth images by Nick Rutter

A front-rank pianist only takes on Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in full confidence of being able to handle the massive bells and blazing chants of its grand finale, “The Great Gate of Kiev”. To risk it in a far from large café space adds to the element of danger and excited anticipation.

A front-rank pianist only takes on Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in full confidence of being able to handle the massive bells and blazing chants of its grand finale, “The Great Gate of Kiev”. To risk it in a far from large café space adds to the element of danger and excited anticipation. Louis Schwizgebel, sonorous master of the house Bechstein – already an instrument designed not to overwhelm – carried it off with high radiance. It will be a long time before we can experience again the full orchestral blaze of Ravel’s peerless orchestration, so this was – despite even the pianist’s initial reservations – a bold and brilliant choice.

That said, we’ve been spoiled by the limitless imaginative horizons opened up by the Fidelio Orchestra Café’s earlier visitors over the past three weeks. Comparisons would be odious in any detail, but on the evidence of the Musorgsky and Debussy’s Estampes, an evocative programme indeed, Schwizgebel produces wonderful sounds but doesn’t always let his fantasy fly. The travels of Debussy to the Far East and Spain, of Musorgsky to an Italian castle, the Tuileries Gardens and the Paris Catacombs remained gilt-edged picture postcards, not images come to fully-dimensional life. The piano needs to sing and speak more in this bel canto and gestural music.

Even the encore, Schubert’s A flat major Moment musical, needed just a bit more space and inwardness, though there was true Schubertian subtlety in some of the turns of phrase. The right continuity, too, as Musorgsky’s gallery-tour smashes from the opening "Promenade" through the looking-glass of "Gnomus"; and the sustaining-pedal effect on the last echo of “Catacombs” reminded us that there are effects on the piano that even the orchestra can’t replicate. Schizebel and MoralesOne of the beauties of these café recitals as they evolve is the way in which top-notch musical visitors want to join their colleagues in rich extras. Last week we had a profound after-dessert encore as Samson Tsoy joined Pavel Kolesnikov for Schubert’s F minor Fantasie. Last night Schwizgebel and Jonathan Bloxham, still wielding his cello even now that his conducting career has taken off worldwide, complemented our mousse with the slow movement of Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata and a poised, unsentimental take on Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan”.

Best of all, because the music was arguably the deepest and richest of the evening, were two Brahms movements with the piano parts divided between Schwizgebel and Fidelio Orchestra Café doyen Raffaello Morales (pictured above with Schwizgebel at an earlier evening): the Adagio affetuoso of the Op. 99 Cello Sonata with Morales – its Schubertian poise between minor-key sadness and major-key serenity never more moving than when the “walking” pizzicati step back out in to the light after protesting the dark – and the opening Allegro non troppo of the E minor predecessor, Bloxham’s cello resonance felt through the wood of tables and chairs. At this time musicians just want to play, and we to be there to listen in the room where it happens.

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