Ingrid Fliter - Wigmore Hall, 16 December 2009
Drama seems to pursue Ingrid Fliter, especially when she visits Wigmore Hall. Last time, she suddenly paused mid-recital when a key became stuck. A replacement piano had to be wheeled on before she could continue.
Last night there was a more prosaic excuse – flu – as Wigmore Hall’s director announced before she came on. But, he added, she had agreed to soldier on with a pruned version of her originally-planned and heroically lengthy all-Chopin programme.
At first it seemed like a mistake. Her opening Nocturne was dull and measured, the sort of thing you might expect from a competent student. Left and right hands played with little sense of having anything to say to each other. Smudgy pedalling failed to obscure basic fingering errors. The plunging fingers and tossed hair were it seemed, like Lang Lang’s, plastered on to the performance as a route into the music rather than an expression of it. She made it to the end, but I half expected her to get up and make her excuses.
Extraordinarily, the Barcarolle that followed just seconds later displayed an entirely different pianist, the one the packed hall had come to hear. Great Chopin performances fall on a cusp between expression and empty display. It is Fliter’s skill – sometimes - to locate that narrow groove. The lilting rhythms flowed from her fingertips effortlessly. The audience applauded spontaneously, and Fliter announced haltingly she would continue with the whole of the planned first half.
A Nocturne, a Mazurka, a Polonaise – Fliter located the heart of each unerringly. Her playing can be extraordinarily muscular, more ‘masculine’ than any man. But she is also capable of the most delicate touch, whisper-quiet yet firmly articulated. It’s this ability to explore the extremes, allied with a pronounced and sensitive rubato that seems to breathe with the work, that makes her Chopin so compelling. Every note is an event, the cumulative effect emotionally wrenching.
After the interval it was back to the truncated programme, eleven Waltzes in place of the promised seventeen. Fliter relaxed into a less intense but no less inspired performance, exploring the reflective introspection of these familiar ‘dances of the soul’ as much as their glittering brilliance. Medicine for body as well as the heart perhaps – by the end of the recital Fliter was sufficiently recovered to brave a CD signing.