This album was recorded live at London's Wigmore Hall in January 2012, and it would be interesting to know whether its release was planned ahead of time or motivated by ongoing affection for the performances. Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses and Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires have often played as a duo, and the easy conversational quality they have achieved is fully evident here. But the beauty goes beyond the usual chamber music competences. Meneses is rightly renowned for his rich tone, which remains undamaged even in the upper reaches of the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, a work written for a defunct six-stringed instrument somewhere between cello and guitar; it lies a bit high for the cello, but Meneses is untroubled by that. The real star of the show, though, may be Pires, who contributes some deeply mysterious Brahms Intermezzi and calibrates her role with astonishing precision in the duo works, emerging into full duet partnership in the final Brahms Cello Sonata in E minor, Op. 38. Beautiful and more, with a dark, melancholy strain unifying the whole, this is chamber music reminiscent of the golden age. Deutsche Grammophon's engineering team also deserves notice for the startling live presence, undiminished by intrusions of noise.
Over four decades since securing worldwide recognition as one of the finest musicians of her generation, Maria João Pires continues to transfix audiences with the spotless integrity, eloquence and vitality of her art. This recital, recorded live in the splendid Wigmore Hall acoustics, is clearly a red-letter event for chamber music connoisseurs. Pires is partnered by Antonio Meneses, cellist with the Beaux Arts Trio and artist of great wisdom and imagination.
Chamber music has always formed the heart of Maria João Pires’s musicianship. Indeed, she has often commented that she is happier working with others than performing on her own. “Not sharing a stage is very difficult for me,” she once remarked (in an interview for ArtsJournal in 2012) “You are apart from the group, apart from community, apart from everything. You become different and special. And, if you become different and special, you’re alone.”
Passion rather than insouciance is Pires’s keynote. Here is no soft, moonlit option but an intensity and drama that scorn all complacent salon or drawing-room expectations. How she relishes Chopin’s central storms, creating a vivid and spectacular yet unhistrionic contrast with all surrounding serenity or ‘embalmed darkness’. The con fuoco of Op. 15 No. 1 erupts in a fine fury and in the first Nocturne, Op. 9 No. 1, Pires’s sharp observance of Chopin’s appassionato marking comes like a prophecy of the coda’s sudden blaze. Such resolution and psychological awareness make you realize that Chopin, like D. H. Lawrence, may well have thought that “there must be a bit of fear, and a bit of horror in your life”. Chopin, Pires informs us in no uncertain terms, was no sentimentalist.
Chamber music has always formed the heart of Maria Joao Pires musicianship. Indeed, she has often commented that she is happier working with others than performing on her own. Not sharing a stage is very difficult for me, she once remarked (in an interview for ArtsJournal in 2012). You are apart from the group, apart from community, apart from everything. You become different and special. And, if you become different and special, youre alone.
The performances on this 2-CD set were recorded during Piano Masterworks, a series of six concerts given by Nikolai Demidenko in Wigmore Hall, London, between January and June 1993. Devised by Ates Orga, under the patronage of The Lord Birkett, sponsored by Lloyds Private Banking, these recitals ranged across 250 years of keyboard music, instrumental technique and the development of modern piano resource - from Scarlatti to Gubaidulina. As a concept the series was modelled on nineteenth-century Romantic practice. In Paris, between 1873 and 1877, Charles-Valentin Alkan gave regular 'Petits Concerts de Musique Classique' -six recitals each, surveying the repear rtoire from Couperin, Bach, Handel and Scarlatti to Weber, Chopin, Schumann and Mendelssohn. Later, the Russian Anton Rubinstein created a cycle of seven Historical Recitals with which he took his farewell of Europe in the mid-1880s. At over three hours individually, these embraced a repertoire from Byrd and John Bull to Balakirev and Tchaikovsky. Like Franz Liszt, Ferruccio Busoni, too, was historically aware, his programming ranging from Bach to Liapunov.
Within a framework selectively subjective, Piano Masterworks sought to present an historical overview, offering a panorama of changing styles, aesthetic values and imaginative responses. The series was launched in Northern Ireland during 1991/92, opening at the Belfast Festival and continuing under the auspices of Queen's University, Belfast, and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.