Joshua Bell/Jeremy Denk, Wigmore Hall, London

Wigmore Hall, London

Adding notes to the incomplete works of great composers is a highly specialised art, but Schubert expert Brian Newbould has more experience of what's involved than most. Included in Joshua Bell's first recital in the Wigmore Hall's ongoing Schubert festival were a group of country dances (or ländler) that survive in a version for one violin, but may have been conceived for two. Newbould's extra second fiddle part provides an entirely non-controversial accompaniment to a set of lightweight tunes probably dashed off for some Viennese suburban hop.

Japanese violinist Arisa Fujita joined Bell for these, and brought to them a more rustic tone than he deployed in the rest of the programme, which consisted of three sizeable concert works. He began with the Rondo in B minor, a free-wheeling piece, more virtuosic than one expects from Schubert. Bell was on top of its technical difficulties and expressed its frequent changes of mood with eloquence.

Though a more formal large-scale structure, the big Duo Sonata in A received a similarly wide-ranging treatment. Bell entered fully into the character of each movement, giving the scherzo a bracing attack and defining the more tender qualities of the slow movement with refinement.

In the Fantasy in C he brought a sense of spontaneity to a piece whose extended sequence of contrasting themes and moods needs exactly the suggestion of controlled improvisation he applied to it.

Throughout these three major pieces his pianist was Jeremy Denk, an ideal accompanist in his impeccable fingerwork, in second-guessing Bell's rhythmic freedoms, and an equal partner in his sensitive matching of his tone with that of the soloist.


George Hall

The GuardianTramp

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