Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Paul Lewis @ Wigmore Hall, London

19 April 2012

Paul Lewis is now well into his two year Schubert project, presenting all the mature works from the Wanderer Fantasie onwards, in venues from London to Melbourne, and this repeat concert of some of Schubert’s greatest works gave a packed house further evidence of Lewis’ pre-eminence as an interpreter of this music.

Schubert’s friend Josef Gahy was said to play the ‘German Dances’ “…with such fire that the dancers were quite electrified by them” and although Lewis did not exactly make you want to jump out of your seat, his lilting, tremulously sensitive playing, especially of the second dance and the melancholy final waltz, provided exactly the right style for the appreciation of these small treasures.

The first of the two A minor Sonatas revealed what one has come to think of as Lewis’ characteristic Schubert – that is, playing which combines ferocious technical mastery with a cantabile style and a certain sense of ironic detachment; some might say he is too intellectual, but if that is sometimes true it is to be preferred to the self-indulgence which mars the playing of some other interpreters. The subdued introspection of the andante had you thinking of Winterrreise, a thoroughly appropriate echo, and the massively challenging allegro confirmed once more that Lewis deserves his place in the great line of classical pianists.

D845 was searingly played, the forlorn opening as bleak as the trio was delicate, the closing bars of the andante avoiding aggression yet having enough power to astonish. Lewis played the song-like finale with the combination of introspection and panache which is ideal for this music, his unforced phrasing and fluent style seeming to be the very essence of what we mean when we say “Schubert.”

Further details of Wigmore Hall concerts can be found at wigmore-hall.org

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