The highlight of Inon Barnatan’s contrapuntal feast at Wigmore Hall was Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, which tied in nicely with the preceding César Franck and J. S. Bach through its fugal Finale, and there was much to please and intrigue the listener throughout – not least the ghost of the organ which hovered over much of the programme, finally making itself manifest in the Busoni transcription of Bach which Barnatan gave as an encore.
We opened with passionate Bach in the first part of his E-minor Toccata, giving way to a faster section where Barnatan’s delicate touch never hindered carefully-crafted emphasis. But something much more substantial was on offer in the expansive soundworld of the Franck, a spacious unhurried account of a work which builds slowly but unflaggingly to great climaxes. Here Barnatan mostly dealt in short phrases rather than the long line, leaving Franck’s mastery of structure to define itself.
The Barber was delivered in more Romantic fashion: longer phrasing with melodies brought out beautifully, including a persuasively anxious third movement and with that Finale played with enormous energy. As the extra piece, Bach’s ‘Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland’, BWV659, an organ Chorale Prelude transcribed for piano by Busoni. The translation between instruments was utterly convincing, Barnatan bringing out the decorated line in an idiomatic but entirely pianistic manner; if anything, it was ironically the Franck that sounded more like an organ transcription.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- Wigmore Hall www.wigmore-hall.org.uk