Brighton Year-Round 2019
Rythmie Wong performed Granados Allegro de Concert, ‘The Maiden and the Nightingale’ from Goyescas, and Valses Poeticas No. 1. And Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit and La Valse.
I’ve not seen Rythmie Wong perform her before but her soundworld is unlike anyone else’s. Making few concessions to the reverberant acoustic in the Chapel Royal Wong presents an extraordinary programme: not for its content, so much as the fact that it’s all in 45 minutes. Just two composers, Granados and ravel, and within that it’s the Ravel programming that’s both a revelation and a surprise.
Granados’s allegro de Concert is one of those pieces that might have flowered into a piano concerto like his contemporary Albeniz’s early Lisztian effort; or a sonata perhaps. It’s a kind of brilliant start that Chopin turned into a artform with his aborted Piano Concerto No. 3. Granados here is nearly the mature compoer he became.
There’s delicacy and half-lights her too, though much is bravura and the acoustic means Wong often enjoys projecting her vivid palette soon after her delicate touches. It’s good to hear Granados tackle sonata form, even if he’s clearly enjoying the drift away from it: a satisfying movement away too from Granados’ more idiomatic pieces, the most famous of which followed.
This is the fourth of Granados’ six-piece Goyescas, meditations on Goya painting: ‘The Maiden and the Nightingale’ which extraordinary lyrical raptness Wong captures but never sentimentalizes, giving it the grain of the others. Wong also emphasizes velocity where indicated and extremes of tempo nicely gradated. The climax here is astonishing, placed fourth as the emotional, indeed sexual climax of the operatic work too, despite solitude.
Wong followed with what’s often the climax of any recital. Ravel’s 1908 Gaspard de la Nuit, inspired by the poems of De Bertam from 1830, which seem to foreshadow Gautier who was just emerging, and poets like Baudelaire and Lautrémont. Its astonishing these depictions of the seductively destructive Ondine (Debussy also tackled this) ‘Le Gibet’, a hanged man in a desert, and ‘Scarbo,’ a shape-shifting sprite were envisaged in 1830. You’d think them 50 years later.
Wong makes of ‘Ondne’ a powerful quizzical narrative, and at the same time a grip on uscl architecture that really impresses. You cn see how this elusive powerful music builds and repeats. tHre’ clarity despite the tonal saturation Wong brings uniquely here. ‘Le Gibet’ is sparser, a rocking sloe macabre rhythm almost a solace between fireworks. ‘Scarbo’ here reveals something I’d not fully appreciated. One regrets that after this Ravel’s music turned to lighter textures and rhythms – Valses Nobles et Sentimentales say, even Le Tombeau de Couperin and certainly La Valse, more of which in a moment. But its surprising too to find such concentration of just these later rhythms in ‘Scarbo’ as if in the sot intense and coruscating music ravel wrote the seeds of its dissolution in waltz-time are so apparent Wong’s great clarity as well as her virtuosity lay this bare. The climax is unusually elusive here, but Wong fires off an intensely wrought salvo of rhythmic switchbacks and climaxes as marked. The sonorities are overwhelming, and the wash of it inevitably powers the way we hear it: an almost Wagnerian rather than Ravelian sonance. But this is certainly one of the most thrilling depictions of the work I’ve ever heard.
So on earth could Wong follow that? Usually we’re at the end. No. La Valse followed in all its cross-rhythms and build-up of waltz-times as the whole emerges into clarity and out again tinto apotheosis. Wong relates the work back to ‘Scarbo but forward into its fantastical self-destruct, a depiction of forces unleashed on France that ended the Austrian and German empires, as such. Wong’s marvellously sprung attack, her relentless and beautifully-timed transitions a she ratchets up the tensions were joyful and rightly appalling (with the implications of 1920).
And even after that Wong graced us with Granados’ gallant Valses Poeticas No. 1 a wisp of a bygone romanticism, almost out of Chabrier. A winningly graceful sign-off to a thunderous and revelatory recital.