Miklós Perényi & Dénes Várjon: Brahms, Bach & Britten

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Britten,JS Bach
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
WORKS: JS Bach: Suite No. 3 in C, BWV 1009; Britten: Cello Sonata in C, Op. 65; Brahms: Cello Sonata No. 2 in F, Op. 99; Chopin: Cello Sonata – Largo
PERFORMER: Miklós Perényi (cello), Dénes Várjon (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0035

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The revelation on this disc is the Britten Cello Sonata: Miklós Perényi and Dénes Várjon throw themselves into it with such dynamic fluency it’s transformed from what can sound an expertly-crafted, at times well-mannered piece of chamber music into something truly profound, dramatic and fantastical.

Britten’s opening dialogue here is urgent where it can be whimsical and  his slow movement is a virile song of mourning which never fades to grey, Várjon providing a glistening magic to the piano part.

The Scherzo that follows is furiously exciting while the hurtling moto perpetuo finale flies along at a speed which gives the Rostropovich/Britten recording a run for its money. This live performance shows us Perényi still at the height of his powers, burning with that intense, inimitable Hungarian high seriousness, complemented by his marvellously supple, imaginative compatriot Várjon.

That quality is maintained in a full-blooded reading of Brahms’s Second Sonata, with both players showing instinctive authority. There are wonderful moments, particularly in the slow movement, but also a sense of labour, partly because Pérenyi rarely relaxes the intensity of his bowing sound. This is most apparent in Bach’s C major Suite: for all Pérenyi’s exquisite musical understanding of the harmony and the dances, there is a lack of flexibility and a rather congested bowed sound.

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Perhaps it’s impossible to hear these pieces now without being haunted by the ghost of a Baroque bow, with its ability to shape the phrases and let the light in. Their tender Chopin encore lingers long in the memory. Helen Wallace