Elisabeth Brauß, a young pianist of considerable talent, poise and some very intelligent ideas about music, performed works across three centuries, the final recital in BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists' Long Weekend at Wigmore Hall.

Elisabeth Brauß © Wigmore Hall
Elisabeth Brauß
© Wigmore Hall

Elegantly attired in a flowing black jumpsuit, Brauß brought an aura of serious intent but pleasurable delight in the music she presented to a live audience. Her program was a challenging one, beginning with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 7 in D major, Op.10 no.3, composed in 1798. The four-movement work reveals a self-confident Beethoven well on the road to his convention-smashing style. Brauß’ approach was brisk, her touch fresh and bright in a spirited performance of the first movement that honored the composer’s classical roots as well as his journey into uncharted musical waters.

Brauß quietly sculpted the shape of the mysterious second movement, almost modal at times, as she explored the underlying currents leading to the dance-like movement to follow. Brauß does not ornament her performance with facial contortions and piano-bench calisthenics; instead, she projects an image of thoughtful calm, control and tender concern for the composer’s intent. The sonata ended with a brilliant fourth movement, although the lower notes could have been more fluid in their dialog with the treble.

Brauß’ technical facility was evident in the Mendelssohn Variations sérieuses in D minor, completed in 1841. References to the plaintive theme were clearly delineated in a series of 17 variations. The artist found a distinct character in each variation, and quickly, though smoothly, shifted from one mood to the next, concluding the set with the softest touch.

Elisabeth Brauß © Wigmore Hall
Elisabeth Brauß
© Wigmore Hall

In one of Prokofiev’s less bombastic piano sonatas, his Second in D minor, Brauß chose to emphasize the work's singing quality, especially in the third movement, an Andante in G sharp minor. Here we do not hear the “man of steel” but rather a young Russian in 1912, uncertain about the course his country would soon take. Tellingly, all four movements are in minor keys. The work gave the pianist occasion to display her wide-ranging command of the keyboard. At one point, Brauß’ hands bunched up in the middle keys like nimble spiders spinning a web of sound. At another point, her left hand rocked back-and-forth between the middle and lower registers in an iconically Prokofiev-type trope.

As an encore, Brauß played Scarlatti’s Sonata in E major, K380, which she called “one of the most beautiful pieces ever written”. That would not have been my assessment, but after I heard this young woman’s delicate but insightful interpretation, I could see her point of view. If she continues on this trajectory, Brauß’ future as an inventive musical mind and engaging keyboard performer with a distinctive style should be guaranteed.


This performance was reviewed from the Wigmore Hall video stream.

Watch the video here