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Barbican Hall - Independent
Friday 17 December 2010

In the strait laiced world of concert pianism, Piotr Anderszewski is the joker in the pack. [...]

Filing into the Barbican for the recital, we found him already waiting for us on stage: lounging on a sofa, sipping tea, leafing through a magazine. We looked at him, he looked at us. This may be sometimes how theatre begins, but recitals never: decorum demands that the pianist bursts onto the stage like a horse from its trap, but Anderszewski strolled to the piano like a guest at the party whose turn it was to play. He got a different kind of attention as a result, and a different quality of silence.

In Bach's fifth English Suite his sound was limpid and delivered with an imperceptibly light touch: he called so little on the Steinway's rich sonorities that we might have been back in the 19th century. The different dances which make up this work were brilliantly characterised, with the Sarabande a miracle of delicate articulation.

Then we got his take on Schumann's anniversary year and were led down unusual paths. The Six Canonic Etudes are seldom performed, and then usually on an organ. Anderszewski gave us his own arrangement of these strange polyphonic experiments, which became interesting refractions of some of the better-known works. Then he played the Gesänge der Frühe, written shortly before Schumann threw himself into the Rhine, and here seeming like a ghostly reincarnation of the brightly-coloured world of the composer's youth.

He wound up with a breathtaking performance of Bach's sixth English Suite. The Prelude seemed to grow out of the earth with sinewy force, while the Sarabande had a wonderfully singing sweetness. The Gavottes and Musette each received their own magical colouring. The crazy angularities of the Gigue were piled one on another so thrillingly that the house was on its feet almost before he had finished.

First encore, another Schumann rarity; second, a Bach Sarabande with rapt simplicity. An unforgettable evening.

Photo: © RobertWorkman/Virgin Classics 2007

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