It is generally quite nice to start an Aldeburgh festival day with some chamber music in a Suffolk church, and this proved especially true of Miklós Perényi's recital in Aldeburgh church on Saturday morning. His programme, the first of three this week, was built around two Bach cello suites, part of a complete cycle.
He opened with the first, in G major, BWV 1007, which received a compelling and unmannered performance. Perényi is not a cellist I have encountered before, but his technique is of the highest calibre. True, the reading might not have been as emotionally engaging as some, and certainly it was very different from what we might have heard from Rostropovich (whose previous fund-raising performance of the suites in the same venue was referred to in a brief speech before the concert started), though this is not necessarily a bad thing.
And he was not without charm as a performer, drawing the audience in in a nicely understated manner: every now and then there was a playful spark in his eye as he glanced out towards us, or a smile as he prepared to embark on a particular movement. Still, the second suite, or rather the fourth in E flat, BWV 1010, was more emotionally satisfying with the Sarabande and the second Bouree being especially moving, but in part that is because there is more weight to the work. Both performances left me feeling rather sorry that I won't be making it to the other concerts; but, as ever at a festival, you can't do everything. If you can make Monday and Tuesday's performances at Blythburgh church, they should be well worth the journey.
Sandwiched between the Bach were two more modern pieces: Sandor Veress's cello sonata (1967) and Witold Lutoslawski's Sacher Variation (1975). These proved a satisfying and well fitting pair, sharing a number of effects in common, in particular the finely executed glissandos. They also provided a demonstration of Perényi's technical command of the instrument as he effortless plucked at the same time as bowing.
The decision to play the works through without a break, making a concert of a little over an hour without a break, was vindicated. It's hard to see where you could have put an interval such that it wouldn't have detracted from the impact and flow of the performance. This is a useful reminder of something that can't be demonstrated enough: less if often more.