I'm a strong advocate of performers actually telling their audience a bit about the music and why they play it the way they do, and this is particularly important when a performer has a distinct view on what a piece of music means and reflects this in his interpretation. Between the two works that Lars Vogt played at today's lunchtime prom, he gave presenter Catherine Bott an illuminating description of how he saw the music.

Anthony Parmelee
Anthony Parmelee

Both works, Jánaček's In the Mists and Schubert's G major Piano Sonata, were written late in life by composers who felt themselves to be unloved by their public. Both are reflective works containing much music of great calm. In Vogt's view, however, the calm is deceptive and ambiguous: each piece also contains moments of great violence. Vogt greatly accentuates the contrasts in these works, so the violent parts are outpourings of massive anguish, while the calm parts leave you wondering whether you are being captivated by a false serenity. It's very different from some readings on record where the two works are beautiful, for sure, but don't have the same emotional impact.

Vogt applies impressive technique to the process. He can produce gloriously smooth rippling textures, and then mark out a strongly accented theme while the texture continues unabated: the control over dynamics is so good that you hardly spot the transition. When he moves from calm to anguish, it's like watching a method actor: you can see all the emotions in his face as well as hearing them coming through the playing. The Cadogan Hall audience lapped it up, and he received a huge ovation.