January 17th 2005
Finch at Wigmore Hall
intellectual control, smooth tone, easy technique, and a classical turn of phrase.
That’s how the Grove Dictionary of Music describes the great French cellist Pierre
Fournier. But it could equally well be a thumbnail sketch of 25-year-old Richard
Harwood, the winner of the 2004 Pierre Fournier Award, who was “presented” at
the Wigmore Hall on Thursday.
notion of “presentation” is significant. This award carries with it an appearance
at the Manchester International Cello Festival and a debut recital at the Wigmore
Hall. But Harwood is well nigh a veteran of the place, having made his debut there
as early as 1998 - his concerto debut, after all, happened at the age of 10.
expecting a superstar in the making would have been disappointed. What we heard
in this thoughtfully programmed recital with the Viennese pianist Christoph Berner
was an intensely and quietly musical voice, whose high intelligence and sensitive
perception may still make Harwood one of the most seductive English cellists of
first - and best - of the evening was Beethoven’s Sonata No 1 in F. This was a
gentle, closely bonded partnership between cello and piano, with Harwood as subtle
and fascinating in the role of accompanist as he was when he took the lead. It
was a deceptively self-effacing start: no point-making or point- scoring, simply
a deeply assimilated understanding of the music’s innermost character.
honoured Fournier’s memory in two pieces particularly associated with him. Chopin’s
G minor Sonata was frequently performed by Fournier, and, true to the spirit of
his great predecessor, Harwood played with understated elegance, sighing where
others might have wrenched the heartstrings, and making a spectral, delicately
pointed dance of the polacca-like scherzo. Here, and in the Tarantella finale,
Harwood could, indeed, have dared a little more.
first Cello Sonata, of 1939, was written for and premiered by Fournier. Harwood
and Berner’s nimble, ambivalent way with the opening caught its unsettled nature.
And Harwood was as reticent in the contained pain of the slow movement as he was
unfazed by the intense virtuosity of the finale.
cello, a beautifully soft-grained 1682 Francesco Rugeri from Cremona, seemed delighted
by its opportunity to tease out the strange and sombre fantasy of Domenico Gabrielli’s
Ricercar No 7 for Solo Cello, in what was an entirely entrancing performance."