Mozart, Schumann & Brahms
Sonata in A minor K310
Fantasy in C, D760 'Wanderer Fantasy'
Sonata No.3 in F minor, Op. 5
Knowing that Béla Hartmann is a pianist with a worldwide reputation as soloist and concerto performer, his visit on the 18th May was anticipated with much pleasure.
His programme consisted of three works by Mozart, Schubert and Brahms, two of which necessitating virtuosic abilities of which he possesses an ample supply.
Starting with the Mozart Aminor Sonata K310, this the first of only two sonatas written in the minor key, composed in 1778 soon after his mother's death, written with the usual three movements - allegro maestoso, andante cantabile and a final presto rondo - this work shows much of the sadness and pathos of his recent loss and showed many changes of mood and intensity throughout the three sections.
The great "Wanderer Fantasy" by Schubert written in four continuous movements certainly displayed Bela's ability to produce a range of emotions from tremendous power in the opening passages where he exercised fully the capabilities of the piano (although the music does not demand more than ff) to captivating pianissimos in the alternating repetition of the thematic material. The adagio consisting of a theme which was taken directly from the original Der Wanderer song (or leid) is followed by four variations of different dramatic intensity with contrasting alternations between major and minor keys and is followed by a highly spirited scherzo played presto and which effectively mocks the first movement with imitations of rhythm, melodic shape and dynamics, albeit in dance time. A relatively short last movement rounds off this work in grand fashion with a fugal beginning and many moments of fury and passion working towards a grand climax which Bela handles convincingly and conclusively stamping his authority over this major work.
Lastly, the Brahms 3rd Piano Sonata in Fminor, another 40 minutes of pianistic bravura spread unusually over five separate movements, occupied the whole of the second half of the evening. Written in 1853 this early work bridges classical architecture and romanticism and impressed Schumann greatly. Having removed his jacket because of the heat and the gymnastics involved, Bela commenced the allegro maestoso movement with tremendous panache and power with the chords that almost encompassed the entire keyboard. Built on symphonic lines this Sonata again covers a vast range of emotions over its length. The andante second movement is essentially a love duet between two 'subjects' in different keys which alternate throughout. True to sonata form the next scherzo and trio section with a distinct contrast between the two, act as a prelude to the unusual fourth movement - an intermezzo. The writing of such genre was a speciality of Brahms and he initially harks back to the second movement's theme and this intermezzo is sometimes titled 'Ruckblick' or 'Remembrance'. Finally the fifth and last movement is a rondo written in the home key of Fminor with the episodes exploring different material and working up to a grand conclusion.
The overall impression of this fine concert was of the masterly control of dynamics, from absolute power to great tenderness which were performed on command and to which a modern grand piano can respond when under the right hands.
A prize-winner of both national and international competitions, the Czech-German pianist Béla Hartmann has established a reputation for lively and individual interpretations of a wide repertoire, ranging from Rameau to Luciano Berio. Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven form the core of this extensive range, and he was both prize-winner in the International Schubert Competition, Dortmund (1997), and winner of the Beethoven Medal of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe (1995). In 2000, he was a semi-finalist at the Leeds International Piano Competition.
In 2005 Béla Hartmann performed the complete piano sonatas and dances by Schubert, in a series of eight recitals at Steinway Hall, London. Other programmes include the complete first book of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, works by Dvorak and Smetana and contemporary composers such as Birtwistle, Berio and Petr Eben. Béla Hartmann had also performed widely on fortepianos. He has given recitals at prestigious venues in London, across the UK and Europe, as well as in the U.S.A., where he appeared at the Carnegie Recital Hall, New York. Concerto performances include concertos by Brahms, Prokofiev, Dvorak, Beethoven and Mozart. Béla Hartmann is also a keen musical essayist and has published both in print and online on areas such as performance practice and artistic identity.