United Kingdom Chopin, Schubert: Daniel-Ben Pienaar (piano), Wigmore Hall, London. 10.1.2016. (LB)
Chopin – 3 Nouvelles Études (1839-40); Ballade No.4 in F minor Op.52
Schubert – From Moments Musicaux D780, No.3 in F minor; Impromptu in A-Flat D935 No.2 (1827); Piano Sonata in A D959
South Africa enjoys an enviable reputation for producing a seemingly never-ending stream of superb pianists of exceptional accomplishment, and Daniel-Ben Pienaar is one of the current crop forging a career in an already saturated international market. Pienaar is very much in vogue, however and he enjoys a generous diary of concerts, as well as a burgeoning discography, currently focused predominantly on the standard repertoire.
His concert at the Wigmore Hall this morning attracted a full house, and judging from the preponderance of the distinctive South African accent in the pre- and post-concert chatter, he enjoyed the support of many fellow South Africans.
Pienaar’s diffident stage manner does curiously exude a certain level of self-assurance, and this served him very well in the three Chopin Études that opened the programme. He was quickly into his stride, with each piece thoughtfully and accurately delivered.
Chopin’s fourth Ballade began promisingly too, poetic, and with subtle rubato, but in the more virtuosic material Pienaar’s bold concept would probably have been more at home in a larger concert hall, as opposed to the intimacy of the salon. Clarity in the enthralling passagework was at times compromised, seemingly sacrificed in the interests of greater volume.
The second part of Pienaar’s programme was devoted to Schubert, with an impetuous Moment Musicaux leading neatly into a disciplined, yet expressive and fluent Impromptu.
Schubert’s Sonata in A D959, the most substantial work on the programme, consumed the better part of this hour-long Coffee Concert, and was performed with great sincerity, energy and determination.
It was the lyrical second movement that stood out for me, however, benefitting from better structural awareness, more complex and evocative nuances, as well as better-judged balance.
Towards the end of the Rondo finale, with the majority of the hard work successfully accomplished and with the end in sight, Pienaar injected an element of humour into his playing, and the audience responded to this air of relative improvisatory freedom with thunderous applause.
Despite successive curtain calls, Daniel-Ben Pienaar respectfully declined the invitation to perform an encore, and the audience left the hall to enjoy a complimentary sherry, fruit juice, or coffee.