Review – Daniel Pioro plays Brahms Violin Sonatas at Aldeburgh Festival 2024


Daniel Pioro prioritises intentional acts, a behaviour evident in his stagecraft, musicianship, posture and expression. This attention to detail establishes an unusual connection between audience member and performer of the kind I’m certain he’d appreciate even if it is, as a listener, slightly unsettling.  

Pioro opened his Aldeburgh Festival’s residency with a crowd-pleasing all-Brahms programme that met with raucous applause. This a reported fact that is at odds with his Festival interview that fronts the weighty programme book. In it, Pioro communicates his dissatisfaction with the classical music industry: “our industry is structured – largely – around regurgitation, minimal rehearsal, and programming with a ‘bums of seats’ policy that is destined to devour itself and fail by definition.” 

This criticism not only of the industry but audience appetite has the perhaps unintended consequence of distancing the crowd from performer before a single note is played. A way of protecting or elevating? It’s difficult to tell for sure, but it’s thorny. Before Pioro steps out onto the stage I read the programme notes experiencing feelings of hostility. Not great in the final few minutes before a concert.  

If that was the strategy then it worked well. Pioro is, just as I recall from his Wigmore Hall appearance years back, a phenomenal communicator. There is a knowing and self-assured theatricality to his stagecraft – the walking on as himself, picking up the violin waiting for him on the stage, and the caressing of the page after he’s turned it – that establishes a vibe.  

His tone is warm and sonorous, and his physical movement considered, intentional and uninterrupted. He creates scenes and characters that not only make heads turn, but also make sense in an overarching narrative. There is elegance, grace and realness in his performance that holds my attention and brings me back for more. He acknowledges the applause initially but turns his back on it when it continues unabated. That act in itself creates a tension that holds attention. His ability to create and hold silence is noteworthy too. In short, this is the stuff that gets bums on seats (and off them).

Throughout his opening recital, Pioro voiced the tumult of Brahms music without making it heavy weather, drawing on a combination of technical mastery, sincere musical expression and a devilishly subversive sense of theatre. I’ve not heard the first Violin Sonata make quite so much sense as in his performance: authenticity, so much to celebrate, and the explosion of joy towards the end of the first movement ecstatic.

He seems like an irritated character in print, yet in performance, he transports me to an entirely different territory.  That is quite some achievement.