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MALCOLM MILLER attends a recital
by Mats Lidström and Alberto Portuheis


The final concert of this year's Regent Hall Summer Festival (5-18 August 2001) featured the notable Swedish cellist Mats Lidström partnered by the Festival Director Alberto Portugheis. Their richly varied and intriguing programme highlighted seldom played works by major composers represented by three societies under whose aegis the festival, held at Regent Hall in London's Oxford Circus, is presented: the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe, the Liszt Society and ILAMS, the Iberian and Latin-American Music Society.

An ebullient and freshly articulated account of Beethoven's 'Bei Männern welch Liebe Fühlen' variations launched the evening with a sparkle, showing Lidström's wide colouristic palette in each of the contrasting variations, and a bright piano support. This was followed by Beethoven's Horn Sonata Op 17 in the composer's own arrangement for cello, here played with panache. Indeed Lidström is a keen promoter of the notion that Beethoven composed seven, rather than merely five, cello sonatas, which includes Beethoven's own version of his String Trio Op 3 for cello and piano. In Op 17 for cello and piano, the cello part is radically distinct from the original horn version, with added passagework in several points in the three movements. The Allegro moderato was infused with dynamism and drama. Lidström's projection of the rising first theme balanced by Portugheis's lyrical answering phrases, similar vivid interactions between the duo in the more delicate second theme, and subsequent development, was propelled with energy towards the strident recapitulation. Clearly there are idiomatic horn gestures, such as the repeated note build up to the second theme, some fanfare type figures, yet much of this work appears celloistic. The long breathed melody of the poco adagio second movement, with its tender warm sonorities was especially effective, and the duo infused the rondo finale wit a steady, yet buoyant momentum, Lidström inflecting the theme with nuances of expression and Portugheis' pianism, as throughout, incisive and crisply projected.

Also little known is Villa-Lobos' Pequena Suite, six evocative miniatures with characteristic Brazilian rhythms and plaintive harmonies, performed here with arresting and engaging finesse. The terse gestures of 'Legendria' and two-part imitation of the 'Fugato' and the suspense filled, almost jazzy harmonies of 'Melodia', with its broad lyrical cello line over tense piano chords were especially beguiling, framed by lively faster pieces, the sprightly 'Romancette' and 'Gavotte-scherzo'. Two short pieces by Xavier Montsalvage, best known as a song composer, included the eloquent 'Evocacion' and zestful 'Canto negro' in Lidström's own idiomatic transcription, and displayed the appealing modernism and wit of this composer.

A further highlight was their enthralling account of two seldom played Elegies by Liszt (S130, 1874 and S131, 1877). In both, which are complementary works, Lidström's fragmentary yearning lines in a wide dynamic range, set against Portugheis's finely judged chromatic, often elusive harmony of the piano, and tremolando effects, all contributed to the impressionistic and elegiac quality. Followed by a version of the song 'Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth', it offered an involving exposure of lesser-known works of Liszt's late period. It was apt to conclude the concert and festival as a whole with the propulsive dance rhythms of Le Grand Tango by Astor Piazolla, originally composed for Rostropovich, which Mats Lidström here delivered with vigour, the complex chromatic, often dark harmony, and caressing Latin-American lilt impelled brightly by Alberto Porthugheis. Their encore, one of de Falla's Spanish songs, added Iberian spice as a climax. The impressive quality and range of concerts in this year's festival (see the review of Anya Szreter's recital) augurs well for continued success in the festival's fourth year, as well as the year round concerts held at the Regent Hall, and those presented by each of the sponsoring societies.

Copyright © 23 August 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





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