Henning Kraggerud, Marc-André Hamelin, Leif Ove Andsnes, Torleif Thedéen and Lars Anders Tomter on the same stage, virtually all at once. Gotta love the Wigmore, and gotta love the Risor Festival. Last night's concert started strong, with Kraggerud and Hamelin (I almost couldn't believe it when I saw them hit the boards together) playing Grieg's F major violin sonata. It's rare to see Hamelin in something of a supporting role, which is a bit of a shame for the sole reason that he is an exceptional accompanist. The piano is featured rather prominently in the sonata, so there were lots of opportunities for Hamelin to showcase his beautiful phrasing and near-perfect balance. In fact, I'd say balance is the mot juste to describe Hamelin and Kraggerud, both in terms of technique and expression. The two men seem centred over every note, and as a consequence they could react to each other instantaneously and shape the music with incredible fluidity. Let's hope they make last night's partnership a more regular occurrence.
Another treat came in the form of Brahms' G minor piano quartet, which I love for a slew of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I'd choose the middle of the third movement as my theme song if ever I were struck by lightning and transformed into a superhero. Hey, it can happen. At any rate, I was especially pleased with last night's ensemble, as it put Kraggerud and Tomter side by side, on violin and viola respectively, which is a situation that always produces delightful results. I remember the first time I heard them play together. Mozart's B flat duo for violin and viola. It was also at the Wigmore, and part of a Razumovsky Ensemble performance. I was already a big fan of Kraggerud, but hadn't heard of Tomter, and listening to the way the two interacted was almost revelatory. I made sure to be in the audience a few months later when they played the G major duo, one of my favourite pieces of all time, and that performance sealed the deal, so to speak. So, I figured the two Norwegians would form a pretty solid core for last night's Brahms quartet, and I was right. Of course, it does make life a bit easier when you have Leif Ove Andsnes on hand to tickle the ivory, and a certain fellow called Torleif Thedéen playing the cello. Four musician's musicians, really, and something of a dream team as far as I'm concerned. I might substitute Hamelin for Andsnes, or better yet, hand him a violin so the band could have a crack at Brahms' F minor piano quintet. The scary thing is, I bet they'd pull it off.