American Record Guide

Once you get used to the slightly recessed (but very clean) sound from Wigmore Hall, this recital becomes very impressive. To begin with, it has a considerable amount of variety, from Beethoven to contemporary (Langdown’s own piece). His notes are detailed and make interesting reading: every piece is discussed.

Hearing this 39 – year old English pianist for the first time (his website lists two more recordings) puts me in contact with a mind that considers every detail, yet carefully avoids any feeling of the ordinary or academic.

Moritz Moszkowski’s rarely – heard 4 Moments Musicaux is a breath of fresh air. These are gentle pieces, charming, melodic, without a whiff of virtuosic demands. For the most part, the sequence of sebven Debussy Preludes is also drawn from the less technically demanding of both books, though ‘ Feux d’artifice’ is a virtuosic challenge for anyone. ‘Bruyeres’, ‘La Terrace des Audiences du Clair de Lune’, ‘Canope” are delicate, beautifully nuanced, and imbued with an almost pastel color palette.

Beethoven’s Sonata 17, Tempest , is less tempestuous than usual here. While I admire his endlessly refined phrases in 1, the music often emerges as soft-edged. This works beautifully in the Adagio, and the final Allegretto benefits from all the refinement, smooth execution, and episode contrast. If we finally wind up with two thirds of a terrific performance, the accomplishment is definitely nothing to sneer at.

Frank Bridge’s Dramatic Fantasia is an early work, dating from 1906. It is well crafted, as are all the works by this great composer. Comparisons with Mark Bebbington and Peter Jacobs shows all three fully satisfying. It is a welcome inclusion in this recital and makes one long for more Bridge, and more programming imagination from today’s players.

Langdown’s own Deo Omnis Gloria (All Glory to God), composed in 2001, “comprises three neo-romantic pieces conceived in the late 19 th Century style” (the composer’s words). The first piece, ‘Hymn”, evokes the sound of organ, choir, and church bells. The second, ‘Lake of Gennesaret’, concerns the miraculous catching of fish in the Gospel of St Luke; and the final piece depicts the Resurrection. All is pleasant, melodic, and falls graciously on the ear.

The Scriabin group includes Etudes Op.2:1, and Op8:1, 2, 5, 9, 11, and 12. These emphasize the lyrical and more placid side of the composer. The famous D-sharp minor Etude that closes the set is given the most refined reading I have ever heard of this stormy powerhouse of a piece. In keeping with the lack of bravura and virtuosic display evident in the entire program, Satie’s ‘Gnossienne 1′ concluded a program totally without any “wow” factor. The audience responds with gentle, ultra-refined applause.

[note: Applause was “gentle” as audience numbers were very small due to the tube strike on the night (the hall was less than 15% full).]

—Becker