Gin Wigmore is already a huge star in her native New Zealand, but she is virtually unknown in the rest of the world, although she has what it takes to go international: her songs are full of sharp observations about the downside of love and lust, with arrangements that sound big and huge and are built for a superstar on a grand stage, and she knows full well that the way there heads out to the dancefloor. Her songs sound huge, spunky, and feisty, and in some ways she's the midnight dance chanteuse that Britney Spears always seemed to want to be. But then there's Wigmore's voice.
This album was recorded live at London's Wigmore Hall in January 2012, and it would be interesting to know whether its release was planned ahead of time or motivated by ongoing affection for the performances. Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses and Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires have often played as a duo, and the easy conversational quality they have achieved is fully evident here. But the beauty goes beyond the usual chamber music competences. Meneses is rightly renowned for his rich tone, which remains undamaged even in the upper reaches of the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, a work written for a defunct six-stringed instrument somewhere between cello and guitar; it lies a bit high for the cello, but Meneses is untroubled by that. The real star of the show, though, may be Pires, who contributes some deeply mysterious Brahms Intermezzi and calibrates her role with astonishing precision in the duo works, emerging into full duet partnership in the final Brahms Cello Sonata in E minor, Op. 38. Beautiful and more, with a dark, melancholy strain unifying the whole, this is chamber music reminiscent of the golden age. Deutsche Grammophon's engineering team also deserves notice for the startling live presence, undiminished by intrusions of noise.