Piers Lane in Blenheim
Beethoven (Andante favori), Brahms (Piano Sonata Op 5), Chopin (Preludes Op 28)
Brancott Winery, Blenheim,
Thursday 29 January 2009
At lunchtime in the Nelson School of Music there was a charming recital from Swedish soprano Catrin Johnsson and New Zealand pianist Rachel Fuller in songs by Mozart, Sibelius, Stenhammer and from less-than-familiar Broadway sources.
The scene changed in the evening, with a 2-hour drive to the Montana Brancott Winery, out of Blenheim, for a 6.30pm recital of Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin from pianist Piers Lane. Here the setting might have been a little too intimate for the good of the piano, a vintage Steinway that has been refurbished but whose somewhat uneven articulation was audible. The capacity of the recital room was suitable but the low ceiling provided very little space for the sound to expand. Thus we heard Lane under slightly less than perfect conditions.
What he played was unexceptionable. He began with Beethoven’s Andante favori (an early try at a slow movement for the Waldstein Sonata): piano album Beethoven if you like, but a well crafted and very attractive piece which Lane treated with rhythmic and dynamic subtlety.
Brahms Third Piano Sonata, his first great work, Op 5, was different; it demonstrate the rugged side of Brahms which is never far absent from most of his later output. It is not often included in concert programmes and is thus a true festival piece. Lane’s brief introduction for an audience not necessarily well-acquainted with the repertoire was well judged, and he thus felt justified in giving them a performance that made no concessions to the faint-hearted. The care he was able to take with the subtleties, both lyrical and rhetorical, was of course tempered by the shortcomings of the piano, but it did not affected in any real way the drama and tonal variety, the careful dynamic and tempo changes.
The second half was given over to Chopin’s complete 24 Preludes which were an even better opportunity to observe Lane’s poetic sensitivity, a myriad of colours and emotions, though the wayward action of the piano did cause unevenness in weight and regularity in fast runs and passagework.