It hasn’t been a great year for ailing pianists at the International Festival – though it’s been a strong festival for their last-minute stand-ins.
Lars Vogt, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh * * * *
Two weeks back Steven Osborne offered magnificent Messiaen and Schubert for an indisposed Beatrice Rana. And covering for US pianist Jeremy Denk, Lars Vogt gamely stepped up for a blistering recital of Brahms, Janáček and Beethoven.
And it was an expertly paced and structured recital, too. Vogt began immersed in the deep introspection and melancholy of Brahms’s Op 117 Intermezzos and Op 119 Piano Pieces, delivered with immaculate balance and clarity. He exploded into vigour, though, in Book One of the same composer’s Paganini Variations. But vividly, wittily characterised though they were, there was a hard edge to his virtuosity, a hammered quality to his power.
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Those qualities continued in Vogt’s second half, which segued a flamboyant Janáček Sonata 1.X.1905 – a performance full of spontaneity and fantasy – straight into Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata. It was an unforgettably high-octane account of the latter, full of rawness and elemental energy, as though Vogt was straining again his instrument’s limitations, but again with that high-contrast hardness of tone.
Nonetheless, his duo of encores – a tender Brahms Intermezzo Op 118/2, and a rip-roaring, jazz- and blues-tinged Prelude and Fugue by Friedrich Gulda – understandably brought the audience to its feet.