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Barbican Hall - Sunday Times
Sunday 26 December 2010

[T]he hall was the setting for an extraordinary recital.

I say 'setting' advisedly, because the pianist, Piotr Anderszewski, casually clad in black, was to be found on a black divan on stage, reading, as we came in. He poured himself a hot drink, glanced our way and, after a time, when an attendant had appeared and the lights had dimmed, walked the few feet to the Steinway, sat down and dispatched Bach's English Suite No 5 with sensational virtuosity and musicality. The surreal preamble was like a scene from a Buñuel film, but must surely have served the admirable purpose of allaying his nerves.

The programme was fascinating. After the first of two of Bach's English Suites came the first of two Schumann rarities, his Six Canonic Etudes, Op 56. Perhaps no Schumann item is a true rarity at the end of the bicentenary, but these subtly wrought, deeply felt short pieces were written for a pedal piano, an instrument with an organ-style pedalboard, and the need for transcription restricts their concert life. Anderszewski offered his own deft versions, and absorbing they were, the rapt concluding adagio still lingering in my mind. The end of the interval found him again reclining - then came the most compelling performance I've yet heard of Schumann's late, strange, fleeting yet substantial Gesänge der Frühe, Op 133, flowing into an account of the sixth English Suite that seemed to condense everything that could be said about it.

Photo: © Robert Workman/Virgin Classics 2010

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