Jan Lisiecki in Impressive Form at Wigmore Hall

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Paderewski, Bach, Chopin: Jan Lisiecki (piano) Wigmore Hall, London, 29.9.2013 (CC)
Paderewski:    Menuet célèbre in G, Op. 14/1. Nocturne in B flat, Op. 16/4
Bach:                Partita No. 1 in B flat, BWV825
Chopin:            Études, Op. 10


I believe the original programme omitted the Paderewski pieces, but it was good to have this extra nod to this pianist’s homeland. Lisiecki impressed at this year’s Proms in Schumann’s Piano Concerto (Prom 10, with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra under Pappano). Hearing him in solo recital, kicking off the Wigmore’s Sunday Morning Coffee Concert series for the 2013/14 season, reinforced his excellence, and with none of the brittleness of tone I commented on at the Albert Hall.

The Menuet célèbre is indeed famous. Lisiecki gave a performance of great character, imbued with a proper spirit of dance, then straightaway entered the more intimate world of the B flat Nocturne, expertly voiced and projected, and filled with a real sense of loneliness.

The First Partita of Bach surely has to be tied in most pianists mind with Lipatti’s magisterial live performance at Besançon (16/9/1950, reissued many times on CD). In comparison with Lipatti, Lisiecki’s Prelude was rather laid back. Lisiecki’s accuracy was remarkable, as was his projected sense of total control throughout. He added a nice edge to the Courante before giving a rapt Sarabande (including preternaturally even trills). The concluding Giga was markedly fast, but effective. Comparison with Lipatti is lofty indeed, but deserved.

Chopin’s Op. 10 set of Études was given a reading of remarkable maturity for one so young. His attunement to Chopin’s world was palpable throughout. He seemed determined not to see any of them as miniatures, an approach that was obvious from the stormy first Étude (C major). By taking the famous E major (No. 3) at a fleet, flowing tempo he helped to integrate it into the set while still honouring its sense of breadth. Technique was no hurdle in any of the Études. In fact the sheer velocity and accuracy of Lisiecki’s C sharp minor (No. 4) was jaw-dropping – only Pollini on DG offers a more heightened experience, surely. Yet he could convey wit also (G major, No. 5) and impetuosity (No. 9, F minor). Fire was the essence of the final C minor piece, though, thoroughly deserving of its “Revolutionary” nickname, yet with chordal phrases retaining a perfect sense of shape. The ovation from the sold-out Wigmore was thoroughly deserved and the encore, I suppose, logical – the very next Étude, Op. 25/1, in a beautifully mellifluous account. Even with the encore, he left us wanting more.

Colin Clarke