Norfolk and Norwich Chamber Music
Cédric Tiberghien / CBSO Soloists, John Innes Centre, Colney, Norwich, March 2017, reviewed by Tony Cooper
Peppered throughout Norfolk & Norwich Chamber Music seasons over the past few years has been a highly-successful series of chamber-music weekends, the brainchild of Roger Rowe, who is retiring from NNCM as programme director at the end of this season after 20 years at the helm.
Already this year Norwich has been treated to the clarinettist Michael Collins gathering a group of his close friends together for a trio of concerts celebrating the music of Beethoven, Schubert, et al. And looking further ahead (April, in fact), popular French-born pianist, François-Frédéric Guy returns to Norwich to play Mozart and Brahms with fellow pianist and countryman, Geoffrey Couteau, concluding their weekend partnership with a flourish performing Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen – the first time that this glorious and inspiring work, composed in 1943 and commissioned for the Concerts de la Pléiade held during the German occupation of Paris – has been heard in Norwich.
But the latest N&N Chamber Music weekend featured two concerts programmed by another popular French-born pianist, Cédric Tiberghien, who joined forces with a group of outstanding wind soloists from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Opening the weekend, Monsieur Tiberghien gave a solo recital comprising Debussy’s Twelve Études composed in 1915 and widely considered to be one of the composer’s late masterpieces and Chopin’s Twenty-Four Preludes, written in the winter of 1838-39 in Valldemossa, Majorca, where Chopin was residing with George Sand. Apropos Debussy’s Études, the composer warned pianists not to take up the musical profession unless they possessed remarkably strong hands.
Words of wisdom, indeed, but Debussy’s work did not pose any problems for Tiberghien. He certainly has strong and confident hands and, playing from the score, he put tremendous and passionate energy into the work but at times his harshness of tone lost something of the subtlety and atmosphere that one expects in Debussy’s music.
However, the opening Étude – ‘pour les cinq doigts d’après Monsieur Czerny’ – provided a tender and serene ‘opener’ focusing gently on the five essential notes before Debussy’s score felt the full impact of Tiberghein’s forceful playing.
In Chopin’s Twenty-Four Preludes, Tiberghein (playing from memory) fared better. He delivered a purposeful reading of the score especially No. 7 in A major – used in Michael Fokine’s historic production of Les Sylphides – which he played with great tenderness, while No. 11 in B major culminated in a thrilling finish by a series of exciting runs of continuous quavers that was pure Chopin.
And the final Prelude (B major), opening with a run of thunderous bars of a five-note pattern by the left hand with the right-hand melody punctuated by trills, scales and arpeggios, including a rapid-descending chromatic scale in thirds, found Tiberghein at the top of his game showing consummate skill at the keyboard while he brought the piece to a rousing (and definite) conclusion by stamping the keyboard with a trio of booming notes deep down in the register.
The joint concert with CBSO Soloists opened gently with Five Pieces for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon, an agreeable neo-classical work by Jacques Ibert, best known for his orchestral piece, Divertissement. Each movement, short, sweet and tuneful, witnessed the bassoonist, Margaret Cookhorn, having a moment in the third movement when she delivered a short, sharp run of deep-sounding staccato notes that immediately found favour (and won) audience approval.
Mozart’s Quintet in E flat for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn and Piano (K452) followed. The opening movement, strict, serious and regimented, gave way to an ethereal-sounding slow middle movement, while the final movement was jaunty, clean and crisp right up to the very last bar.
The piece was played in true Mozartian style by a polished team of performers comprising Emmet Byrne (oboe), Oliver Janes (clarinet), Michael Kidd (horn) and Cédric Tiberghien (piano) not forgetting, of course, the bassoonist of the moment with a personality to match, Ms Cookhorn.
The second half of the programme, devoted to Beethoven, opened with Michael Kidd giving a fine rendering of the F Major Horn Sonata, while the Duo for Clarinet and Bassoon that followed witnessed the two soloists boxing clever off each other with some intricate and delicate playing thoroughly delighting a near-capacity house.
Monsieur Tiberghien joined the CBSO players for the last item of what turned out to be a fulfilling, entertaining and thrilling programme, Beethoven’s delightful E flat Quintet for Piano and Wind. The relationship between Tiberghien and his fellow players was well balanced throughout the piece which, supposedly, was inspired by Mozart’s E flat Quintet (K452) written in 1784 and for the same scoring. The composer said of the work that ‘the sound world that the unusual mixture of instruments provided was truly impressive’. I don’t think any member of the audience would disagree with that statement judging by the reception they afforded the players.
Keep up to date with NNCM news and concerts by visiting www.norwichchambermusic.co.uk
TONY COOPER is QR’s Opera Critic
Your mention, Tony, of Chopin’s time in Mallorca put me in mind of a visit I made there almost 30 years ago. On an overcast spring morning in a cafe in Valldemossa, I remember listening to a tape recording (played by the cafe owner) of Chopin piano music. Seldom has the spirit of a composer found such a perfect location than in this quiet, melancholy landscape.