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Norman Lebrecht’s Album of the Week – Antonio Meneses & Maria Joao Pires

By (October 16, 2013) No Comment

4790965Antonio Meneses, Maria Joao Pires: The Wigmore Hall Recital
Deutsche Grammophon

London’s Wigmore Hall runs an excellent little label that showcases its best recitals and sells heavily in the lobby and online. Every now and then, however, an event leaps off its stage and can no longer be contained in house.

Listen to this rare pairing of two Portuguese-speaking artists and you’ll wonder where you were that January night last year, how on earth you missed the date and what took DG so long to issue this quite exceptional recording.

Pires and Menses takes Schubert’s hackneyed Arpeggione Sonata at a hypnotic pace – slow, to be sure, but so commanding as to pin you to the seat. I haven’t heard a more riveting performance in years. Brahms’s first sonata is friskier, but no less arresting. You feel like you’re intruding on the private meditation of two artists who play together every day of their lives. A set of Brahms intermezzi and snippets of Bach and Mendelssohn complete the set. On paper, just another classical release. In your ears, an inimitable experience. Why wasn’t I there?

The producer is EMI veteran John Fraser, with immaculate sound by Daniel Kemper and Andrew Mellor. The lone drawback is a booklet with dreary pics and words. Wigmore Hall has great house style. What happened to DG’s?

Norman Lebrecht is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other publications. He has written 12 books about music, the most recent being Why Mahler? He hosts the blog Slipped Disc.