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Risør Festival of Chamber Music

Grieg Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Op. 8
Songs plus Chausson Chanson perpétuelle Op. 37
Brahms Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor Op. 25
Berg 4 Pieces for clarinet and piano Op. 5

Stravinsky The Rite of Spring (for 2 pianos)
Wallin Under City Skin
Honegger Symphony No. 2

Leif Ove Andsnes & Marc-André Hamelin pianos
Lars Anders Tomter viola
Measha Brueggergosman soprano
Martin Fröst clarinet
Risør Festival strings

Wigmore Hall, 26 & 28 November 2010

A mixed bag in the two concerts we attended, showcasing an annual festival held at a picturesque Norwegian village.

Long admired violinist Henning Kraggerud brought the F major Grieg violin sonata, well worth hearing occasionally, and certainly so partnered with the great pianist Marc-André Hamelin, who went on to steal the show with his subtle accompaniments for a disappointingly unfocused Measha Brueggergosman* in a miscellany of Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Duparc and Chausson; she has gone off badly since impressing at the Wigmore Hall Song Competition in 2001...

One marvelled at how expressive Hamelin can make a single note sound on the piano - without any vibrato; a resource which Brueggergosman dispensed continually in a generalised manner and without showing any great interest in the words and their meanings whether in German or French.

In the second of our two concerts, best was perhaps first, the super-sensitive playing in Berg’s Four Pieces of clarinetist Martin Frost, whose exceptionally well controlled pianissimo Leif Ove Andsnes could not always match. Andsnes and Hamelin gave a polished account of the 2-piano practice arrangement of The Rite of Spring, failing to persuade us that it "retained technical precariousness which has been eliminated by the sophisticated security of most modern orchestras" [Gerald Larner].

Heard again after long decades Honegger's string symphony, once a favourite, was fascinating; every moment of it came back to me, the maddening repetitions of a viola phrase; the screwing up of tension in the slow movement, and the exciting finale crowned with a trumpet chorale; all forgotten but locked in the recesses of memory for recall to be triggered as soon as it began. Now, it felt overlong and too obvious, ending a concert which itself was too long, with an unwanted encore by the solo violist who had counterpointed street noises of the "urban jungle" in a simplistic mixed media piece with tape by Rolf Wallin.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*See also The Independent