Schumann slighted

Tonight to the first of the SSO’s International Pianists series, featuring François-Frédéric Guy.

The program was:

CHOPIN
Nocturne in C minor, Op.48 No.1
Nocturne in E, Op.62 No.2
Polonaise-fantaisie, Op.61
BEETHOVEN
Sonata No.31 in A flat, Op.110
‘Tempest’ Sonata, Op.31 No.2
‘Moonlight’ Sonata, Op.27 No.2

in that order.

For encores, FFG played another Chopin Nocturne, the “no 20” op posth., (fittingly, in C# minor to follow the ‘Moonlight’) and then Brahms Intermezzo Op 116 No 2.

For what it’s worth [I am not a critic], I thought the ‘Tempest’ was the best on the night. The Op 110 was a bit too mellifluous for my taste. The ‘Moonlight’ was marred by a virtuoso cougher just behind me [two or was it three loud barks in the last few bars of the first movement] and also, as with op 110, not quite spiky enough [not in the anglo-catholic sense] on the rising figures in the last movement, though of course I enjoyed it. The choice of Chopin nocturnes was notable in avoiding any compound time nocturnes at all – in fact I thought the Chopin encore was the best of this composer.

Mr Guy’s coiffure was worth the price of admission alone – on my part that is envy speaking. Despite my carping (which I accept is a matter of taste) about his op 110, I’m looking forward to his Beethoven concerto next week.

I was amused to see later that Harriet Cunningham found herself next to the odd couple I first met last year and has labelled them ‘Steptoe and son.”

But the big headline for tonight, which took me aback, was the full house. Such an attendance at the piano recital series hasn’t been seen since – well, probably since Lang Lang. Was it the 7pm start? (If so, I gnash my teeth, because we can expect more of the same quite contrary to my own preference.) Was it the particular program or pianist? Was it the fact that the SSO is apparently now offering mix-your-own subscriptions? I met one couple tonight whom I’ve previously run into more often at the opera. They were there on the strength of this and doubtless there were others.

One thing it may have been is the marketing to the Chopin bicentenary. Every concert in this series features some Chopin, and one program (Garrick Ohlsson’s) is all-Chopin. Perhaps, rather as we had, in the wake of 1792-1992, ‘Mostly Mozart’ concerts (which vestigially survive in the SSO’s “Mozart in the City” series), this will spawn an afterbirth of “Chiefly Chopin” concerts.

I don’t want to diss Chopin, but it does seem a distortion that the other bicentennialist, Schumann, doesn’t rate a mention in this year’s piano series at all. It’s true that, unlike Chopin, he is not just a piano composer, but piano music is a big part of his oeuvre. If his piano music is awkward, well, that’s a charge against all of his music except, possibly, his lieder (which fall outside the SSO’s remit). Can’t someone from “Beyond Blue” or [jumping to conclusions here, I know] Syphilitics Anonymous speak up on poor old Robert’s behalf?

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