Album + Live
"Live recording" can mean many things, from a warts 'n' all eavesdropping on a concert performance any time in the last century, to a highly-produced experience, mixed down and edited together from several live performances, perhaps even in different venues, electronically manipulated to match in post-production, together with rehearsal recordings or post-concert patch sessions, guaranteeing that every dodgy moment is covered by a perfect take. There may be audience noise, coughing, rustling, page-turning, applause… or uncanny silence, with all such indications of the existence of human life offstage edited into oblivion.
"Live recording" can mean almost anything between these two extremes, and how you feel about that is up to you. Ask the musicians themselves (I have, many times) and you'll get a wide range of attitudes and opinions. The reason I'm bringing it up is because in my own mind this Wigmore Hall recital from Miklos Perenyi and Denes Varjon seems to be some kind of ideal. First of all, it's from the recital they gave in the famous London venue on 27th January 2009; there may have been a little patching - I don't know - but it doesn't sound or feel like it. This recording appears to include everything: the audience noise (and it's a noisy audience - January audiences in the UK usually are), creaks, rustles, quite long pauses between some movements that haven't been curtailed - and the famous Wigmore Hall acoustic, beautifully captured by engineer Tony Faulkner and producer Jeremy Hayes.
Close your eyes and share with the audience the warm humanity of the Hungarian cellist's solo Bach - the C major Suite. After the life-affirming joy of it's final Gigue (could I hear Perenyi's foot tapping out the rhythm as he played?), the opening Dialogue of Benjamin Britten's C major Sonata unfolds before us a darker, more troubling universe of sound, heard through a partnership with the younger pianist that's well-balanced and intuitive.
But the best is yet to come: Brahms' F major Cello Sonata, in a performance basking in the sunshine of Brahms at his most lyrical, and full of nobility, grace and power. Perenyi introduces the encore himself: the Largo from the Chopin Sonata, whose nostalgic wistfulness makes for an ending that's close to perfect. You'll almost believe you'd bought a ticket, and you can relive the experience as often as you wish. Isn't that everything a "live recording" ought to be?