Unity of Conception
MALCOLM TROUP was at the
BPSE Summer Festival in London
A succession of phenomenally talented instrumentalists helped to lift this year's BPSE Summer Festival at Regent Hall, in memory of BPSE Co-Founder the late CarolaGrindea, onto a new and higher plane of musical superlatives. I say 'instrumentalists' advisedly because, thanks to the organisational skills of pianist and RCM professor Julian Jacobson, the Festival opened [24 July 2009] with a rare Beethovenian double-bill not often heard in such relaxed surroundings. For the first half, he was joined by his professional 'friends': Chris O'Neal (oboe); Tony Lamb (clarinet); Philip Gibbon (bassoon); and Katie Pryce (horn) in a superb performance of Beethoven's early Quintet for Piano and Winds Op 16 and, for the second half, we had the 'other' Piano Trio No 2 from the same Op 70 as that of the celebrated 'Ghost' Trio, with accomplished Greenwich Trio violinist Lana Trotvsek and cellist Pál Banda. A fascinating glimpse behind-the-scenes of what this called for in terms of give-and-take on the part of pianist Julian Jacobson -- one of the finest chamber musicians and coaches in the country, quite apart from his fame as a soloist of distinction -- can be found in his insider-review elsewhere in Music & Vision. Needless to say, all such hazards as described there were triumphantly overcome in performance which, far from being under-rehearsed, sounded as if the group had already taken it on tour -- which is the only course I could recommend after such matchless playing by both wind-players and pianist.
The following Monday 27 July was occupied by Coady Green, an outstanding Australian pianist who has already won well-nigh all the awards and prizes that his great continent has to offer, so has come to continue his winning streak in Europe. Alas, it fell on a day when I had a concert of my own to contend with but, on my return, I received rapt reports of the impression he had made with his SchubertSonata D664, BeethovenFantasy Op 77 and Liszt's Pensées des morts and Funerailles, though in the latter the question was raised as to why he needed the music at all. At any rate, it was a welcome return-visit, filling in at short notice to avoid an awkward cancellation. Wednesday 29 July's recital by the fair Evelyne -- youngest of the proud Berezofsky dynasty -- has already been reviewed elsewhere in Music & Vision so it leaves me free to devote the remainder of my review to our three remaining stars: MishkaMomen, AisaIjiri and, most of all, Riyad Nicolas -- a name to remember!
The last event of our Summer Festival at Regent Hall (Friday 7 August 2009) might well be confused with the last of the summer wine, so exultant was the 'high' on which it ended and so intoxicating the effect produced on the large public by the last of Liszt's Paganini-Etudes which Syrian pianist Riyad Nicolas had saved as his parting-shot.
Even before that, he had given a prodigious recital which rose head and shoulders above everything else we have heard this year: a flawless and insightful account of Beethoven's Op 27 No 1 and yet another interpretation of Chopin's B minor Sonata, something of a firm favourite if not a 'warhorse' at this year's Festival.
His was a commanding presence on the platform even before a note had been sounded, from the moment he strode purposefully on and cocked his head attentively as if commanding silence to reign. Indeed, a sense of timing was of the essence in every aspect of his performance as he balanced each play of register, dynamics and articulation against the preceding -- neglecting no passing inspiration but melding all together into an indissoluble unity of conception.
For once, here was someone who gave due regard to Chopin's essays in part-writing in the first movement of Op 58. The Scherzo sailed past like a feather borne on the wind while in the sonorous and spacious Adagio he proved himself master of the long line. But it was the Presto which had us all on the edge of our seats at a breakneck speed that made the initiates among us wonder how Riyad Nicolas could possibly keep it up till the end. Nor did he ever let the mounting torrent of sound degenerate into the usual case of keyboard 'assault and battery' -- even more admirable in view of the piano's obvious decline in only the space of a year.
Before the rapturous applauses, he gave but a single encore: Liszt's final Paganini-Etude in an account which I for one have never heard bettered! In but a few weeks' time, this thoroughbred from SulamitaAronovsky's stable of winners will seek his spurs in the Leeds Competition; for today, we his public were only too happy to lend our ears to this paragon of pianistic prestidigitation who, Leeds or no Leeds, will continue to delight discriminating music-lovers for years to come as well as setting a new gold standard for future BPSE Festivals.
Copyright © 18 August 2009 Malcolm Troup,