“I have a dream” JAMIE BERGIN at the Wigmore Hall
I had heard Jamie Bergin this winter in a programme of Beethoven,Chopin and Ravel and was instantly won over by his artistry and refined musical pedigree.
He has inherited this from his early formation with Murray McLachlan,Joan Havill,Karl- Heinz Kammerling and last but certainly not least Lars Vogt to whom he became assistant in Hanover.
His second major recital in London this year for the Kirckman Concert Society.The first,last January, was in St John’s Smith Square.And now due to a cancellation by an indisposed Ian Bostridge we were able to hear him again this time at the Wigmore Hall.
This was an artist in meditave mood on an Eldorado of a cloud in which the sumptuous sounds he shared with us was a private confession of subtle personal artistry.
An almost whispered succession of sounds played so stylishly we almost craved for him to make a nasty sound!
Such is his superlative sense of control and balance ,a technical prowess that knows no difficulties allied to an intimate knowledge of the scores as one would imagine from a student of Joan Havill.
To quote from his own words describing the programme that he had chosen at the last minute for this unexpected recital:
”op 109…full of fantasy conveying a wonderful sense of improvisation ….. the third movement opens with one of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard and I sometimes find it difficult to stop playing!”
It is very rare that words can convey some of the meaning of music but I think Jamie got fairly near tonight.
The first movement of op 109 was played indeed in an improvisatory way with a flexibility of pulse and colour that was extremely personal.Some might say over romantic but here was a man in love and not afraid to share it with us.
The second movement as contrast could have been more decisive and rhythmic but much to my surprise that was to come with the innocent simple statement of the theme of the final variations.Some very subtle colouring in the following variations and a sublime sound in the slow almost waltz like statement of the theme.
The fast semiquavers were played with a sheen that allowed the melodic line to sing out as is rarely the case.
Some transcendental piano playing of course,ca va sans dire with this pianist.
The spell momentarily broken with the entry of the fugato that soon was allowed to dissolve so naturally into the sheen of magic sounds created from the trills on which the melodic line sang so beautifully.
The gradual dissolving in a cloud of mystical sounds led to the final statement of the theme all the more poignant for its total simplicity.
The seven fantasies op 116 by Brahms were :”like being taken on amazing emotional rollercoaster….some moments are absolutely heartbreaking.One can only wonder what Brahms went through to write such music”.
And so it was with a Brahms that was not Brahms but a truly emotional journey from an artist with a very delicate sound palette that could create the magic of deep melancholy of the meltingly beautiful lament of the second Intermezzo or the beautiful prominent left hand weaving its web in the third with the beautiful liquid cantabile melodic line floating on its surface or the pure magic of the fourth and the ghost like search of the fifth.The suave melodic line of the sixth with its melting cantabile in the middle section.The forward drive of the seventh with its sumptuous melodic middle section.
But here was a personal vision that experienced only the ecstasy of the Andante,Adagio or Andante con grazie e intimissimo sentimento of the Intermezzi .But the implied contrast of Presto agitato,Allegro passionato or Allegro agitato of the three capriccios was missing.
Smoothed over very beautifully.But in order to appreciate true beauty we need comparison and contrast and it was this that was missing in this secret message of Jamie’s Brahms.
The three pieces that make up book one of Iberia were played with a great sense of colour .As Jamie relates :”The music has such a generosity of spirit and freedom …. I was inspired to play it when I heard Alicia de Larrocha’s iconic recording.”
It is considered one of the most challenging works for the piano: “There is really nothing in Isaac Albeniz’s Iberia that a good three-handed pianist could not master, given unlimited years of practice and permission to play at half tempo. But there are few pianists thus endowed.” Thus spoke a review in the New York Times of de Larrochas performance.
And the performer tonight too had a no fear of the great leaps of the “Fete dieu a Seville” or any of the transcendental demands of these three pieces.
“Evocacion” was full of the simmering atmosphere of Spain as was the irrsistible dance of “El Puerto”.The enormous dynamic range that Albeniz asks for from “ffff” to “ppppp” abound especially in “Fete dieu” which could have had more contrast so the startlingly beautiful ending would have come as more of a lugubrious journey into the infinite.
I well remember Rafael Orozco in these pieces many years ago with the blazing passion of a young and passionate spaniard
.He ran away with the Gold medal in Leeds and I remember Annie Fischer asking me what had become of him since.
He lived in Rome and came to see Alicia de Larrocha whenever she played for us.
He chose to die early with his partner.A life lived passionately until the last!
Jamie had a different vision of these pieces .Full of hidden lights and sounds, intoxicating perfumes and intimate seduction rather than the brazen spain of noise and bustle and the excitement of the corrida.
The Berceuse by Chopin op 57 :” soothing and peaceful with a hypnotic effect that seems as if everything is frozen in time “
It was infact just that with a beautiful bell like cantabile and played with a simplicity that allowed the variants to evolve so naturally.
It led to the final work, one of the most important works of the romantic piano repertoire :the fourth Ballade by Chopin op 52.
”There is so much tragedy and drama and the coda is known for being fiendishly difficult.”
It was the masterly build up to the coda that was so remarkable in a performance of great beauty always moving forward and never sentimental .The sustaining bass in the statement of the opening theme allowed such freedom but within the limits of the great architectural line.
The coda of course was played not only with fearless technical prowess but with great care over the musical line to the final cascading arpeggios and final chords.
A recital that was today the triumph of Eusebius with Florestan only allowed an occasional glimpse of the beautiful landscape that was being sculptured in the hands of this remarkable young musician.