Paul Lewis, Wigmore Hall, London

Wigmore Hall, London

For those who fear a lack of profundity in contemporary British pianism, Paul Lewis is your man. Luckily for Londoners, the Liverpool-born pianist has also made the Wigmore Hall very much his second home, and his concerts there have acquired an intimate flavour: we are encouraged to listen with Lewis, not to him.

This intimacy was entirely suited to an intelligently conceived programme in which György Ligeti's Musica Ricercata was sandwiched between Mozart's C minor Fantasia and A minor Rondo, Lewis finding powerful echoes in each before setting off for the expansive climbs of Schubert's G major Sonata. "Ricercare" denotes a free, imitative form, but also refers to the creative process itself, highlighted by the way the 11 short movements of Ligeti's essay each avail themselves of a progressively larger number of notes, from mono-tone to 12-tone composition. While this may sound boringly academic, the expressive and referential reach of the work is astounding. Ligeti airs what amounts to a microcosmic private history of music, from the primordial first movement to the futuristic 10th, taking in Beethoven, Grieg, Scriabin and Bartók before concluding with a homage to Frescobaldi. Framed by Mozart, in which Lewis constantly pulled at the notes, squeezing out the maximum expression from the dissonant contours, the Ligeti glistened.

Like his teacher Brendel, Lewis has long been a powerful advocate for the pained, occasionally gauche sincerity of Schubert, capturing perfectly his music's melancholy lyricism and capacity for spinning yet one more yarn. The G major, considered by Schumann to be Schubert's most perfect sonata, was initially published as a "fantaisie"; Lewis gave it a suitably expansive, patient treatment, easing out the chain of melodies as if drawing a confession of loves lost from a dear friend.

Contributor

Guy Dammann

The GuardianTramp

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