Kolesnikov/ Hermès Quartet
★★★★☆ Wigmore Hall, London
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, piano concertos were regularly published in chamber arrangements. Mozart made versions for piano and string quartet of three of his concertos (K413, 414 and 415), and those still turn up regularly in concerts. The quartet arrangements of Chopin’s two piano concertos are heard less often, but the cut-down version of his second concerto, in F minor Op 21, formed the first half of Pavel Kolesnikov’s concert with the Hermès Quartet.
Whether Chopin himself had a hand in making the arrangement seems unclear. But his orchestration is never particularly subtle or complex, so reducing it loses relatively little, though the absence of sheer weight of tone does create some problems of balance. For all the light-fingered fleetness of the performance those problems were never completely solved, and the central section of the slow movement lost some of its vehemence. But the shimmer and sparkle of Kolesnikov’s playing were a considerable compensation, especially in the filigree decoration of the slow movement.
Kolesnikov and the Hermès followed the Chopin with another concertante work, but one always conceived for chamber forces. Ernest Chausson’s Concert for violin, piano and string quartet is an unwieldy piece, in which the piano is used as often to add extra heft to the quartet textures as it is as a soloist. It’s the violinist who takes the leading role, and Elina Buksha’s no-nonsense approach was exactly what was needed. Even her robustness couldn’t let much light into the overwrought slow movement, but in the passages in which Chausson really reveals his affiliations to César Franck there was exactly the right kind of buoyancy.
Light-fingered fleetness ... Pavel Kolesnikov