Review, Andrew Brownell & Benjamin Frith, Wigmore Hall, London by James Ellis

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There’s something about two pianos that’s just so exciting. Andrew Brownell and Benjamin Frith at Wigmore gave a sweet coffee concert to swipe away the Sunday blues. Wagner’s Overture to Tannhäuser, in the arrangement by Léon Roques flourishes. Famously open and not as engulfing as late Wagner, the overture is packed with a perfect main melody, towering scales and an overflowing sense of drama. Both pianists captured the essence of this early Wagner opera and it was a fine concert opener. I love the kinetic energy between them. I want to hear them do Satie, Messiaen.

Saint-Saëns followed in a surprisingly dull twist with his Variations on the trio section of the Menuetto from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op 31. No. 3. I was left so unmoved by this, it’s amazing how trite the French composer can be. Others after affirmed their dislike. The melody seems to be moved around neither cleverness, nor genius. I will listen again to try and find something of worth. Its a longshot…

Gershwin’s An American in Paris ended with a more jumpy thrill. The great musical is shrunk into these 20 odd minutes, the eternal melodies of the composer always there. The mania of Paris is depicted vividly, the sensational ballet sequence also getting its due here. Andrew and Benjamin looked like they had fun, Gershwin’s scatter bolts of notes are always fun. You should really let rip in this jazz work and they both did. Great stuff!

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