Till Fellner, piano
by Charles T. Downey | Thursday, December 24, 2009
We hear so much good music every year, which makes this annual post difficult to compile, but here is the list of the ten best Washington-area concerts we heard in 2009). It is pointless to try to rank these excellent concerts from best to least best, so they are listed in chronological order, with an excerpt from my review. As always, your comments about the year in review are welcome.
Till Fellner, Beethoven Cycle, Part 3 (Embassy of Austria, May 11- Embassy Series):
Fellner's op. 106 was nothing short of a technical marvel, an almost breezy handling of a viper that made one forget the poison in its fangs. Indeed, the audience's restrained applause may have been due in part to the ease with which Fellner played the work, meaning that a listener might not have realized just how difficult it was. The exposition of the first movement established the tone of Fellner's interpretation, a careful balance of hammer (explosive where needed) and lightness (exceptional clarity of independent lines) that never felt overplayed, resulting in a sort of Schubertian grace. In fact, never has the Hammerklavier struck my ears as so close to the Schubert sonatas, which of course it was, composed only about a decade before D. 960. In terms of tempo, Fellner was generally steady as a rock, yielding only as Beethoven indicated, no matter the demands to be negotiated, although the first movement's tempo was slower than the absurdly fast metronome marking that Beethoven indicated. The same was true of the enigmatic scherzo (although Fellner did almost meet Beethoven's metronome marking), kept lively and bouncing with energy right to its abrupt conclusion, slowing only slightly at the trio, perhaps in reaction to Beethoven's marking semplice.