Review: Violinist Daniel Pioro plays Beethoven Sonata Op.96, Biber and Lark Ascending at Wigmore Hall

Daniel Pioro is an intriguing performer with a gentle presence on stage. He moves and speaks with intent. His body follows the trajectory of the music he’s playing. And he plays with a delicate kind of sweetness I’ve not heard before.

These characteristics alone made the cool clear air of Wigmore Hall an ideal setting for Pioro’s performance style.

But there was, from the moment he walked on stage, an other-worldliness to Pioro that made this an unusual experience for the listener.

Pioro has a stillness about him that sets a slower pace for the audience member long before he starts to play.

There is no flourish, razzmatazz or affectation when arriving on stage, only natural rhythm. Calmness descends, the bow rises and falls, and the notes sound. The mechanics of the process are left far behind (in the dressing room). What we see is music being drawn in front us.

It’s clear where Pioro most feels at one: long expanding melodic material that expands over a long period of time, supported by an emotional maturity that was solid and unwavering. The adagio of the Beethoven violin sonata in G was a case in point, though his most sonorous sound was reserved for Clare O’Connell’s deft arrangement of Vaughan Williams Lark Ascending for violin, viola, cello and piano. Here Pioro exchanged the bright sweetness he’d deployed in the Beethoven with something richer and rounder.

The pathos of the Lark Ascending was brought to the fore inducing a few tears to roll down the cheek. But, it was Biber Passacaglia in G minor that opened the programme that I especially enjoyed. More and more I’m appreciating those musical introductions which transition the audience from outdoor to indoor experience.

Here Pioro thrived, at ease on the stage bringing that trademark stillness to bear at the beginning of the work before making small moves from left to right of stage as he played. This created an unexpected sense of inclusion and intimacy to proceedings. At tones during the Biber there was even the sense that he was accompanying the music on stage rather than playing it. Again, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced that before. A quite moving affair.

That I found Daniel Pioro’s performance intriguing wasn’t entirely down to his rare sense of style (it’s worth flagging that the suit was a nice looking thing too), but the range of music he offered up and one or two biographical details too.

A recent Bedroom Community release entitled Dust sees him play a new work written for him by Edmund Finnis – Elsewhere. (Be sure to listen to the unusual arrangement for Lark Ascending there too.)

He’s also appearing at the Proms this summer with a new work by Jonny Greenwood (it will be interesting to see how that stillness translates to the Royal Albert Hall).

And personally speaking, I recall marvelling at his musicality in an ensemble setting during a stunning SCO concert in Kings Place last year. He also has connections with Manchester Collective. The man can switch between genres and locations with relative ease it seems.

One to watch.

Review: ‘Prophecy’ / Scottish Ensemble / Karen Cargill / Matthew Trustcott / King’s Place

At fifty years old, the Scottish Ensemble as a brand is five years older than me. It’s tempting to project all sorts of personally held assumptions about how heritage guarantees quality. We make judgments on how we think a concert will be based on the name of the orchestra we see in the advance listings.

But the reality is entirely different. What you hear is the result of the talent present on stage. The brand is (sorry to the management of the Scottish Ensemble) largely irrelevant because the name is nothing more than a marketing construct.

The success of a gig is in very large part down to the person who booked the musicians. That’s where the magic exudes from. Not only their individual talents, but the art created by those talents collaborating with one another.

Under the direction of the ever youthful guest director Matthew Trustcott a lean, supple and nimble group of soloists delivered a rich programme of Stravinsky, Haydn, Berlioz (no, really) and Purcell with grace, spirit, and seemingly effortless poise.

The success of the evening was in no small part down to the collegiate approach the ensemble adopts. On the one hand there’s Matthew Truscott’s inclusive style of direction. On the other, the solid and reliable dynamism of principal second Daniel Pioro. Everyone roots for one another. When solos are complete, colleagues acknowledge one another. That’s a special kind of respect for an audience to observe.

The opening sequence – the first part of Stravinsky’s Apollon musagète – had a muscular sound. Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos that followed with soprano Karen Cargill on stage displayed an agility during the opening recit, but moments of shaky ensemble during the aria that followed gave proceedings a tantalising fragility. Control was quickly regained during the recit and aria after that. Gripping stuff.

A blistering transition featured in the second half moving from the overture to Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas overture to ‘Ah! Ah! Je vais mourir! … Adieu, fière cité’ from Berlioz’s Les Troyens – arresting. That the Scottish Ensemble delivered Ian Farrington’s arrangement of the Berlioz with only twelve players (instead of the usual 36) revealed the mastery of the composer’s orchestrations.

Purcell’s When I am laid in earth was an inevitability, but programming the conclusion of Stravinsky’s Apollon musagète to follow revealed the real magic in this gig (and other concerts like it). Such concert programming borrows the same technique deployed by sophisticated music-loving DJs: playlist generation.  And by adopting that approach the unfamiliar can sometimes be introduced; new insights emerge.

If the superlatives are getting tiresome, then get over yourself. It’s not often I leave a concert bristling with excitement like I did on Friday night. This was one of those events I wish I had invited a great many friends to experience with me. Such is the gamble of live performance.

A very special event. Magical. I adored it.