Polish composers take the stage at Wigmore HallReview
Saturday at the Wigmore Hall featured three concerts full of music by Polish composers. Violinist Jennifer Pike was the organiser of the whole project - the repertoire ranged from the baroque to the brand new and everything in between. Sadly I was only able to attend the final concert of the evening, but I would have loved to hear all three! The performance I saw was wonderful, consummately musical and full of moments of true beauty. All four works were amazing in their own rights, though I felt it was slightly strange programming - particularly the second half felt awkward to me.
The programme began with a pair of solo piano works by Maria Szymanowska, an early 19th-century female composer. The pieces were performed beautifully by Tom Poster, whose playing was warm, flexible and velvety. The melody lines were woven with ease and elegance, and though the pieces were relatively simple, Poster never missed an opportunity to charm.
Jennifer Pike joined Poster on stage for the next work, Partita by Eugeniusz Knapik. Knapik is not a composer I had heard before, but he is certainly one I am eager to hear again. The piece began with ferocity and drama as both piano and violin played a series of huge chords and dramatic rhythms. I wasn’t convinced by the first movement, but the duo carried me easily along into the utter beauty of the rest of the work. The second movement, “Air”, really revealed Knapik’s allegiance to the works of Olivier Messiaen, reminding me of passages from the Quartet for the End of Time. Over all, the work had a huge variety of musical texture and colour- we heard the colourful language of Messiaen balanced with a very different type of viscerality. This music came from somewhere different, somewhere unique. Pike played with both delicacy and heat in turns, revealing the shape of a luminous and wonderful work. She was beautifully matched at every turn by Poster, who was tender and resolutely musical through even the strangest corners of Knapik’s music. I was astonished by the sheer beauty of this music at moments, and the performers managed to hold the whole audience spellbound through the wonderful mystery of this work.
After intermission, the pair played a short work by Mikołaj Górecki, son of the famous Henryk. The piece was called “Farewell” and though it was undeniably beautiful, it seemed to be over almost before it began. It was performed in a way that was tender and almost sentimental, but balanced with a little bit of a bite. Poster was particularly lovely in this work, nuancing every shape. Their communication as a pair was more obvious in the comparative simplicity of this work, something which was lovely to see on stage. I was surprised when the piece ended- I would have liked to hear another similar work programmed next to it, just to give it a little bit of space to breathe before the performers launched into the final work.
The concert was finished with Chopin’s Piano Trio in G minor op. 8. The vigour of the opening Allegro was a shock to the system after the dreamlike world of the Knapik and the compelling simplicity of the Górecki. I was unprepared for something so resolutely tonal. It was also full of textures my ears almost weren’t ready to hear - all three independent parts layered on top of each other seemed a shock after the structure of the preceding works. After my ears adjusted, I was in a better place to appreciate the brilliance of playing in the trio - Poster and Pike added cellist Guy Johnston to complete the trio. They made their way with a warmth and precision of playing, communicating easily as the work unfolded. Though a beautiful work, it is a slightly strange one. Chopin has given much of the beautiful material to the piano, leaving the violin and cello in their middle registers, mostly to accompany. However, the trio gave a beautiful performance of the work, finishing to a rightly deserved powerful applause.