Lars Vogt Live at Verbier Festival

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Janácek; Beethoven; Brahms; Schubert; Mozart & Chopin
LABELS: Ideale Audience
ALBUM TITLE: Lars Vogt Live at Verbier Festival
WORKS: Janácek: In The Mists; Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 18, D 894
PERFORMER: Lars Vogt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3079818

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Seriousness radiates from the German pianist Lars Vogt. He comes on, he sits down, he gets to work. Charm isn’t sprayed around, but you must respect his intelligence; his courage, too, in beginning his Verbier Festival recital with JanáΩek’s introspective suite In the Mist. The Czech folk rhythms embedded within arrive without much local colour; but Vogt’s fingers certainly find the music’s forlorn emotions. The final movement is particularly bleak and finished off with a snarl. Photography further emphasises Vogt’s intensity as he plays in what seems a pool of darkness. One notes in the gloom a few spare seats.

With Schubert’s G major Sonata, D894, tenderness arrives, though shadows and melancholy are always close by. Vogt demonstrates particular care over the shading of dynamics, attack, and inner voicing, as he does indeed in Beethoven’s final Sonata. Trouble is, his considered manner often resembles the dissection of a dispassionate surgeon, scalpel in hand at the operating table. What is Vogt thinking and feeling as he whirls and jazzes through Beethoven’s bumper variation movement, or pushes and pulls the phrasing in his Brahms Intermezzo encore? Indeed, it is hard to tell: the man is borderline inscrutable.

Yet there are three minutes of genuine poetry on this DVD, in the posthumously published Chopin Nocturne that follows Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 16, recorded at another Verbier concert. Genially conducted by Gábor Takács-Nagy, Vogt’s Mozart is dry and crisp, but a tad studied. Then, finally, he drops the scalpel, turns limpid, and opens his heart. If only he’d done that sooner.

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Geoff Brown