Bartók • Berg Liszt • Mozart

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok,Berg,Liszt,Mozart
WORKS: Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K310; Berg: Piano Sonata, Op. 1; Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor; Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances
PERFORMER: Hélène Grimaud (piano)


Strongly individual artists divide opinion. If you’re a fan of Hélène Grimaud’s playing, you’ll savour this latest display of glittering, supercharged virtuosity and tight-reined directness. But if you approach her latest album from a more neutral angle, you might well be asking yourself time and again (as I did): where’s the poetry? 

Mozart’s A minor Sonata comes through the Grimaud experience much the best. Her booklet interview gives an intriguing view of the composer (‘In terms of his period – and this links him to Liszt and Berg – he’s an extremist in matters of expression’), and her way of bringing out the music’s dramatic, pre-Beethoven manner convinces strongly. Her way with Berg’s Sonata does not.


There’s a glacial brittleness to Grimaud’s middle-to-top-register tone which gives her far too few expressive options in this kind of hyper-intense post-Romantic idiom. In Liszt’s Sonata she deploys her technical command with total fearlessness, but the great lyrical passages tend not to sing. Similarly, the brighter moods of Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, are captured much more vividly than the darker or more wistful ones. There is surely far, far more to Grimaud’s artistry than we hear here. If only she’d let us hear it. Malcolm Hayes