Anderszewski celebrates his fiftieth at the Wigmore in typically unorthodox style

Piotr Anderszewski, Wigmore Hall

In the strait-laced world of concert pianism, Piotr Anderszewski has long been the joker in the pack. He’s capable of delivering a witty bar-by-bar analysis of his compatriot Chopin’s music while playing it exquisitely; he is a ruthless perfectionist.  Critics who rushed off home after a Bach recital he once gave at the Wigmore – assuming his encore would be the usual trifle – missed a repeat of half his programme: dissatisfied with his performance, he simply gave it again.

Filing into the Barbican for a few years ago, 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 how theatre may begin, but recitals never: decorum demands that the pianist bursts onto the stage like a racehorse from the trap, but Anderszewski waited until people had settled, then 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, a different quality of silence.

With his fiftieth birthday concert the surprise lay in the programme. The pièce de résistance would be Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, and it would be preceded by two suites composed by Schumann three years before his death. Sieben Clavierstücke in Fughettenform Opus 126 were the fruit of the composer’s deep immersion in Bach’s 48, and in Anderszewski’s hands they emerged with bright forcefulness. Most pianists would have taken this opportunity to make a present to themselves of their own greatest hits, but Anderszewski’s present was to Schumann’s memory – an affirmation that these late works were the products of a composer still in full possession of his creative powers.

And I have never heard a more gripping performance of the Diabellis. The first three, delivered in a barking parade-ground tone, didn’t seem auspicious, but once properly embarked Anderszewski held us spellbound. If this performance was episodic, with pauses and intermittent surges of power speeding it onwards, so, as the manuscript reveals, was Beethoven’s composition process. The alternating moments of visionary calm and savage excitement were delineated with compelling authority, as was the variation in which tonality disintegrates. I don’t normally think of this work as having a ‘plot’, but this time it did seem to: the quest for wisdom, with many a failed attempt along the way. The final luminous C major chord came like a benediction.

[A version of this review will appear in the July issue of International Piano Magazine]

3 thoughts on “Anderszewski celebrates his fiftieth at the Wigmore in typically unorthodox style

  1. What an amazing review! Thank you!
    I was so moved by that recital that I decided to walk home all the way from Wigmore Hall. I was blown away by the whole programme & loved Anderszewski’s idea to play in a dim light: from the beginning I was transposed in the world of Richter’s last recitals… Am sure Richter would have loved this memorable recital.

  2. Was this the Friday concert? The program changed (see below)- he played Bach (three from the WTC II) before the Sieben Klavierstucke, and didn’t play Gesange der Fruhe. It had been a long day, but don’t think my ears deceived me that much.

    But thanks for review, and bless Anderzewski. Thought the encore – more Bach – was astounding.

    [Thank you for booking the above concert.

    The programme for the above concert has changed and will now be as follows:

    Bach Prelude and Fugue in E flat BWV 876 from ‘The Well-tempered Clavier’ Book II

    Bach Prelude and Fugue in A flat BWV 886 from ‘The Well-tempered Clavier’ Book II

    Bach Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor BWV 887 from ‘The Well-tempered Clavier’ Book II

    Schumann Sieben Clavierstücke in Fughettenform Op. 126

    INTERVAL (20 minutes)

    Beethoven 33 Variations in C on a waltz by Diabelli Op. 120]

  3. He didn’t play Gesange der Fruhe – the program changed a few days before. It was from Bach, WTC II before the Sieben Clavierstucke.

    Agree with the Richter comparison.

    The Bach encore was astounding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.