Cristian Sandrin in Hampstead Simple great Beethoven

A remarkable performance of Beethoven’s last two,sonatas, by Cristian Sandrin for their directness ,simplicity and great architectural understanding.
From the first notes of op 110 there was an outpouring of continuous energy that lasted until the final chords of op 111.
Of course with op 110 it was a mellifluous outpouring of such poignancy that like Chopin’s late Barcarolle there is a continuous stream of song from the first to the last note.
Even the fugue in op 110 was played with such pastoral calm as was the fourth variation of the Adagio of op 111 both gradually leading to the ‘star’ (as Scriabin would have put it)or the natural culmination of a lifetime condensed into music.
A simplicity where slight blemishes had no importance such was the great tidal wave that engulfed us.

It was only the third time the Cristian had played the trilogy in public – and even here today it was only two thirds of the journey as time did not permit him to include op 109.
He has the simplicity that I remember from Jacob Lateiner or Eduardo Del Pueyo – not world famous names but well remembered for their masterly musicianship.
It was Lechetitsky who gave Artur Schnabel the greatest compliment of his life when he accused him of being a musician not a pianist.
Schnabel used to boast that the difference between his programmes and those of his colleagues was that his were boring from beginning to end!
Cristian has just come through performing the Goldberg Variations a journey that took almost a year – and it was not the rock concert of Lang Lang but rock solid like Andras Schiff or Angela Hewitt and the start of a lifetimes’ journey :

Cristian is now being mentored by Dame Imogen Cooper in London and William Grant Naboré in Rome as he is turning his attention to Beethoven and I am sure before long also to Schubert.As Andras Schiff says he leaves the virtuoso repertoire to others as there is not enough time in one life to discover and ponder over the deep meaning in the masterpieces of Bach,Beethoven,Mozart and Schubert.Leaving others to juggle with the thousands of notes that often say much less.A great lesson of humility and musical integrity at the service of the composer.

Cristian having been asked with only two days notice to substitute an indisposed colleague and also having played the evening before in the centenary celebrations of Saint- Saens at the National Liberal Club.Enjoying every minute with Tyler Hay and the Kettner Philharmonic of the scintillating effervescence of Carnaval of the Animals .Well it is Christmas after all!

But what a beautiful venue it was today in this intimate chapel in Hampstead a true temple dedicated to art and the perfect framework for the Beethoven’s trilogy and a corner stone for our civilisation.
The fact that Beethoven could not hear these sounds except in his own inner ear but was still able to write them down and share them with posterity is truly miraculous.
Today we witnessed a miracle .

‘Moderato cantabile,molto espressivo’ Beethoven writes at the opening of his op 110 penultimate sonata.The problem is always how expressive should one be without changing the serious structure of the piece?Cristian struck just the right note of sentiment without sentimentality a beautiful robust but delicate cantabile that permeated this most mellifluous of all Beethoven’s Sonatas.The legg(i)ermente arpeggios played with a clarity and delicate precision as they led to the beautifully simple second subject.The transition of E flat to D flat was played with a magical sense of timing and delicacy as it led to the development with its swirling left hand figurations which Cristian played with scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s very precise indications.No ritardando at the end as this was not a full stop but just a continuation of all that had come before. A rock solid Allegro molto of great rhythmic energy.The bass notes being the anchor on which hung the treacherous passage work of the trio which dissolved so naturally into the return of the Allegro molto and the magical final chord that was allowed to vibrate.The delicate left hand arpeggiando bathed in pedal all so remarkably notated by a composer who was totally deaf !The opening chords of the Adagio were very lovingly placed and were of sublime beauty as this great improvisation unfolded with magical sounds.Notes made to vibrate (bebung of the fortepiano) and the gentle pulsating chords in the left hand on which the Arioso dolente in a seemingly free way (as Schnabel indicates ‘sempre liberamente’)but always with the great architectural line of bel canto so clearly shaped .Even the fugue entered almost unnoticed on this wave of deep contemplation.Usually a rude interruption but in Cristian’s sensitive hands a mere continuation of this outpouring of song (very similar to the great choral works of that other genius J.S.Bach).’Perdendo le forze ,dolente’ Beethoven implores and it was just this that appeared on the cloud of a simple but truly magical modulation.The pulsating left hand chords seeming even more like the beating of Beethoven’s own heart at last at peace with the world.The repeated chords too ,before the apparition of the fugue in inversion,were played with great reverence within the sound world that Cristian had held us spell bound and not the more usual out of place dramatic outburst.The gradual build up of the delicate inverted fugue was played with simple beauty where Beethoven’s scrupulous indications and written in accelerandi were recreated with Beethovens passion and vigour shining like a beacon of exultation and hope .

‘Maestoso’ Beethoven mark’s in his last Sonata op 111.It was the weight of Cristians left hand that immediately created the imposing declaration.Played with very taught rhythms that led to the agonised groans of sforzando piano that herald the menacing tremolando and explosion finally on C.But ‘C’ only ‘forte’because the statement of the theme is marked ‘fortissimo’ so often overlooked by lesser interpreters.As Perlemuter ( who had studied with Schnabel too) told me,it must be like water boiling over at 100 degrees.And so it was in Cristian’s hands but played with a very precise rhythmic pulse and clarity that allowed the improvised interruptions to become an integral part of this startling call to arms!The development too with just a sudden quite ‘G’ played with such orchestral precision and the long thematic notes allowed to shine out with such unforced clarity.There was true animal excitement too in the absolute precision of the left hand chords as the recapitulation and coda were played with simple authority .The final chord had started with the coda just dissolving in sound without any misplaced rallentando.The Arietta:Adagio was played ‘molto semplice and cantabile’ with the sound of a string quartet where every strand had a meaning of great poignancy in this outpouring of aching beauty coming from Beethoven’s very soul.The tempo changes, written in by Beethoven himself and it is for the real interpreter to maintain this pulse from the beauty of the opening to the sublime ending.A celestial vision on a cloud of trills that the composer miraculously could envisage and comunicate via the printed page.There were moments here where Cristian’s youthful passion will mature into a deeper more profound reflection and never allow his own involvement to change the rock solid pulse.It was Barbirolli praising the sometimes over expressive Jaqueline Du Pré saying quite simply :’If you don’t play with passion when you are young,what do you pare off in maturity?I love it!’ And so do I!

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