Some of today's pianists are increasingly taking sixteenth- and seventeenth century keyboard music into their repertoires. While this is nothing new - Glenn Gould was playing and recording Byrd and Gibbons in the 1960s - it's good to see so-called 'early music', for whatever medium, continuing to move into the centre of 'mainstream' repertoire.
Petr Limonov began his recital, and launched the new season of Sunday morning piano recitals at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall - 29 October 2023 - with Gibbons' Lord Salisbury Pavan. His aptly introspective reading had rather more tempo flexibility and dynamic range than I would have expected, but it was an absorbed, and absorbing, performance all the same.
There was more introspection at the beginning of Mozart's Rondo in A minor, K 511. Clear textures contrasted with the darker, more turbulent middle section, in a compelling account.
Schubert's Sonata in A minor, D 537, got off to a bounding, impulsive, even truculent, start, with the quiet moments judiciously balanced. In the second movement, later re-worked as the finale of the A major Sonata, D 959, Limonov expertly realised the sense of darker currents that rise but never quite come to the boil. The trio section is one of those moments when Schubert seems to completely disengage from the outside world, which Limonov looked into deeply, to the extent that the last return of the rondo theme still seemed to have a faraway look in its eye. The last movement was alternately stern and playful, topped off by a positively fierce last chord.
Limonov spell-bindingly captured the rarefied atmosphere of Nuages Gris, one of Liszt's extraordinary late pieces, and it was a short step from there to the first of his concluding Chopin group, a gently wistful reading of the Mazurka in F minor, Op 68, No 4. After that, he eased into the Fourth Ballade, with stormy, unsettled moments to come. The big climax was followed by a passage of utter stillness, before he unleashed the turbulent conclusion. Here, as throughout the recital, his immaculate, crystalline finger-work was impressive. Scherzo No 2 was athletic, ruminative and impetuous by turns, with left-hand lines always cleanly articulated and well-balanced with the right.
Prelude No 1 from Book 1 of J S Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier was his gently rippling encore.
Copyright © 7 November 2023