Review of Aldeburgh Festival, 2009
The Times – Richard Morrison.
If the final weekend of the Aldeburgh Festival demonstrated nothing else, it showed how some musicians could perform the Yellow Pages and still grip an audience. The oboist Nicholas Daniel, for instance, in a fine recital with the pianist Charles Owen, took what seemed like a whimsical, palindromic programme — Bach sonatas and Schumann, framing tough-nut pieces by Elliott Carter and Birtwistle, which themselves framed a suite by the Czech composer Pavel Haas — and turned it into a thrilling two hours.
On a clammy day the perspiration poured from Daniel, and his facial muscles sometimes looked as if they would erupt. Yet no hint of that physical effort appeared in his hugely ebullient interpretations. Whether in a lilting Bach siciliano, Schumann’s gorgeously poignant tunes, Carter’s extremities and overtones or Birtwistle’s playful aleatorism, Daniel’s playing went straight to the heart of the matter. The climax was the Haas: an anguished, angry then transcendentally beautiful response to the Nazi invasion, soaked in references to Czech songs and hymns and written by a man who would perish in his mid-forties in Auschwitz.