Warmth and communicability
Bernard Roberts' Romantic pianism launches the Glenilla concert season. MALCOLM MILLER listens.
The richly expressive pianism of Bernard Roberts in a well-balanced recital
on Sunday 27 October 2002 of Beethoven, Schubert, Debussy and Brahms, formed
a magnificent overture to the 2002/3 season of the Glenilla Arts Foundation.
These monthly concerts, under the directorship of the notable cellist Andrea
Hess, take place at the Church of the Christian Community, Glenilla Road,
London NW3, a short walk from Belsize Park tube station and attract a regular
following to hear established and promising new musical talent in an acoustically
Bernard Roberts is renowned as a Beethoven interpreter (he is UK President
of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe) and it was salutary to begin with
the Sonata in A Op 101, from Beethoven's 'experimental' period
of 1815-6 and one of the earliest of the composer's explorations of
cyclic concepts in sonata design. Indeed here the gentle reminiscence of
the first movement's main theme before the finale supported what Charles
Rosen has highlighted as one of the main innovations of Romanticism, the
idea of memory in music. The flowing lyricism and calm of the first movement
were neatly contrasted by the piquant rhythms of the Vivace alla Marcia
second, with plenty of incisive dynamics and tension in the stretching registers,
before the inquisitive searching tenderness of the Adagio con affetto.
The ebullient finale bristled with detail, particularly in the two fugal
interludes that develop the initial, playful motif into a serious contrapuntal
After this profoundly emotive, yet always disciplined performance, Schubert's
Three Piano Pieces D946 proved an ideal complement. Overflowing in
melodic invention, both the first two, in E flat minor and major respectively,
use their substantial rondo form to integrate their respective rondo themes
-- in turn dramatic and innocently lyrical -- with a variety of episodes
that are in turn buoyant and plangent, intense and lilting. Bernard Roberts'
pacing was marvellous, poised silences adding to the anticipation of each
expressive section, moving seamlessly in and out of the Rondo theme. The
final piece, in C major, features textures clearly related to the late piano
sonatas and rounds off the set with panache, raising the intriguing issue
of the whether the set was intended as a whole: certainly it sounded coherent
and artfully shaped in this beautifully shaded and energised reading. Would
that Bernard Roberts would present more Schubert on our concert stages.
Copyright © 31 October 2002
Malcolm Miller, London, UK