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Review: Classical: Snape Proms: Biss/Esfahani Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh ?????

August 25, 2014

Rian Evans



Jonathan Biss's recital at the Snape Proms confirmed his status as one of the finest pianists of his generation. With music by Chopin and Jana? cek framed by two Beethoven Sonatas in F minor, the early Op 2 No 1 and finally the Appassionata Op 57, this was a serious affair. Biss's interpretations of Beethoven are already much acclaimed, and here the performances seemed to have matured further: this was a deeply considered, forthright delivery, countered by an acute sense of tonal colour.

His playing of Jana? cek showed an equally instinctive feel for what makes this composer's soundworld so characteristic. In From the Streets and In the Mists, Biss captured both the folk-like inflections and the more operatic arioso, as well as unleashing an orchestral torrent to stunning effect. Similarly, his Chopin Nocturne Op 62 No 1 and the Op 62 Polonaise-Fantasie spun long threads of melody punctuated with explosions of passion.

Mahan Esfahani's performance of the first book of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier was even more riveting. For the gentle harpsichord to fill this venue is already an awesome task; the lighting was dropped almost to darkness, and Esfahani created a balance of tensions that shifted from calm to highly wrought, the singing lines emerging with consummate clarity. Serene, cerebral, playful, knotty, soulful, sometimes unashamedly virtuosic - Bach embraced everything. And by way of underlining the beautiful physics of it all - a prelude and fugue in each of the 12 keys rising semi-tone by semitone - Esfahani followed the final fugue in B minor with a return to the beginning, the now doubly ethereal Prelude No 1 in C major completing the circle. In a crazy world, something was made perfect. The message to take home, suggested Esfahani by way of quelling the applause, was that Bach is a way of life.

Rian Evans

Snape Proms continues until 31 August. Box office: 01728 687110.


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Source: Guardian (UK)


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