The Croatian pianist Dejan Lazić first came to my attention, perhaps for the wrong reasons, when I read about his 2014 fracas with The Washington Post over the “right to be forgotten” in Google searches. He asked for a review from 2010, which he felt was unfair, to be removed. The incident sparked a lively debate across the networks about whether artists should respond to negative reviews or make such requests, and whether critics and reviewers need to be more careful about what they say. To me, it was a rather neat example of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”: I read about Lazić, my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to hear him live.
I missed his Queen Elizabeth Hall concert in winter 2014 so I was pleased to see him on the roster of the Wigmore Hall’s lunchtime concerts. And how glad I am that I decided to go to the concert, for he presented an imaginative programme of music: two greats of German music – Haydn and Schumann – were juxtaposed with dances by Shostakovich and Lazić himself, all of which revealed his strengths.
Anyone who makes me smile in Haydn gets my applause……
In a neat piece of programming, Monday’s Wigmore Hall lunchtime concert brought together two French master-pianists to play two French masterpieces for the ballet, Debussy’s erotic and ecstatically playful Jeux, and Stravinsky’s “beautiful nightmare”, The Rite of Spring. Read my full review here
I can think of few better ways to spend a Monday lunchtime, especially a very rainy Monday lunchtime in June. It was a pleasure to duck away from the milling shoppers on a very greasy, wet Oxford Street, and slip into the plush, civilised embrace of the Wigmore for a concert by two charming Frenchman (François Leleux and Emmanuel Strosser) of music for oboe and piano by Britten, Poulenc and Dutilleux. I was “off duty” yesterday, i.e. not reviewing, merely meeting a friend to enjoy some quality music, followed by a chatty lunch at Comptoir Libanais, just across the road from the hall.
It’s a while since I heard live woodwind, and, from my vantage point in row B, I was able to enjoy the physicality of the oboist’s performance. It was wonderful to hear his breath actually being pushed into the instrument, and the click-clacking of his fingers on the keys as he wrought a huge range of colours, moods and shadings from the music. Britten’s Six Metamorphoses, a work for oboe alone, was introduced with great humour, and played with wit. The Poulenc Sonata was both wistful and jazzy, while the Dutilleux contained nods to his contemporary, Olivier Messiaen. The musicians were clearly good friends, evident from the ease of their body language as they performed. They were genial and smiling, and we, the audience, smiled back. An encore “by a very famous French composer [Saint-Saens]” (more smiles and good-natured laughter) was generous and humorous.
I have never been to an indifferent concert at lunchtime at the Wigmore; and I have been to some truly superb lunchtime concerts. The 2pm end time means there is still time for a late lunch: a while back a friend and I went to the restaurant at the Wallace Collection for lunch, which was really wonderful treat. Often you can pick up a ticket on the door, and the lunchtime recitals are excellent value at £12 (concessions £10). Go on, try it. You know you want to.
The first lunchtime concert of the Wigmore Hall’s autumn season featured young French pianist Lise de la Salle, who brought passion, poetry and panache to a neatly contrived programme focussing on “narratives” within music, with works composed by musical friends, Chopin and Liszt. Read my review for Bachtrack.com here.
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