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Following their not unimpressive coupling of Brahms’ First Concerto and the Four Ballades Op 10 (reviewed in IP January 2020), Lars Vogt, the Northern Sinfonia and Ondine have followed-up with the Second Concerto and Handel Variations. Once again there is beautifully phrased playing from Vogt and his ensemble, directed from the keyboard. Some may prefer a slightly weightier orchestral sound, particularly in the strings, but the more intimate ambience works well here. Vogt’s tempi, however, are another matter. Th e opening horn call is taken too slowly and the movement (Allegro non troppo) does not quite flow as it should – as if the brakes were constantly being applied. Th at might have worked if there was more fire in the succeeding Allegro appassionato but only in the final stages do we truly hear appassionato playing. Th e Andante is beautifully done, however, serene in the outer sections, heaving with emotion at its heart. Th e Allegretto grazioso finale flows along nicely but could have had a touch more zip.

Handel Variations opens with the same unhurried grace with which the concerto ended. Vogt’s traversal through the 25 succeeding variations is very neatly and imaginatively achieved, relishing the constantly changing moods and cut and thrust of the theme as it is elaborated, developed and transformed almost (but not quite) out of recognition. It is a wonderfully weighted interpretation, again frequently broad in pulse, but more convincingly so than in the Concerto – perhaps reflecting Vogt’s strength in playing the piano rather than directing from it. Ondine’s sound, as always, is splendid.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2020 - ©Rhinegold Publishing