Piers Lane entertains at the piano at Waikanae

Piers Lane (piano) – Waikanae Music Society

Schubert: 12 German Dances, Ländler & Valses Sentimentales, D779, D783 & D790
Brahms: Intermezzi in B minor, E minor, C; Rhapsody in E flat; Op.119
Beethoven: Sonata no.31 in A flat, Op.110
Chopin: Ballade no.1 in G minor, Op.23; Four Nocturnes,  Op.27, Op.48 & Op. Posth.
Schulz-Evier: Arabesques on the Beautiful Blue Danube

Waikanae Memorial Hall

Sunday 29 August 2010, 2.30 pm

What a well-constructed programme this was, celebrating Chopin’s bi-centenary, other supreme composers for the piano, plus a dazzling finale.  This was real pianists’ music: not out to be showy (with the exception of the final piece), but to be expressive.

Using a microphone, Piers Lane interpolated remarks between the groups of items.  These were informative, and sometimes humorous, such as when he told us that the words of the folk-song on which the second movement of Beethoven’s sonata was based had been translated as “You are a slob”!

The Schubert Dances he played, the pianist informed us, were made into a collection for performance by Dame Myra Hess.  He told us that he had created a show in memory of the great pianist, and performed it with actress Patricia Routledge as Myra Hess, the words being excerpts from her books, letters and interviews.

It was good to hear these pieces – it is rare these days to hear relatively slight items (in terms of length) in a recital.  Put together as a set with little or no break, the dances gave opportunity for great vigour and steady rhythm – one could have danced to them.  The result was delightful, though perhaps of  all Schubert’s works for piano, these would be more effective on fortepiano.

The Brahms pieces received masterful but sensitive readings from Lane.  He indeed, to quote the programme note quoting Brahms ‘luxuriate(d) in dissonances’ in the first Intermezzo.

There was great contrast between the second and third Intermezzi; the first was sombre while the next one was lively.  The heroic Rhapsody was just that.

Beethoven’s second-last sonata has a wonderful opening.  As Piers Lane expressed it in his introductory comments, the work proves that ‘one can have joy after suffering’.  Every note was distinct; pedal use was judicious and never blurring.

Contrasting with the poetry of the first movement, an energetic declamation of an allegro followed.  Then there was pathos in the exquisitely worked-out adagio.   This was thoughtful and expressive playing, by a pianist fully in command technically, and who has the piano at his fingertips physically, mentally and emotionally.  It was a joy to hear him play.

The first Ballade of Chopin becomes graceful and delicate at the second theme, yet there is great force and energy towards the end.  It was a feast of brilliant and virtuosic performance, demonstrating to the full the sheer inventiveness of this piece.  We were informed that the Ballade was dedicated to Schumann, and that both he and its composer loved it most of Chopin’s works.

It was a delight to hear the Nocturnes.  After the meditative first one, dark like a nightmare, broken by a bright middle section, the second was notable for the lovely singing tone and cheerful mood.  We were gliding by night on glistening waters.

The third, in C minor, has been described as imperious.  It was played more slowly than other performances I have heard, but seemed to gain effect from this tempo.  There was beautiful articulation in the last of the set.  Every note had its own piece to say, yet was part of the general flow.  It was mesmerisingly lovely.

The piece by Adolf Schulz-Evier (1852-1905) was quite amazing; a highly decorated paraphrase of Strauss’s famous waltz, that required great virtuosity.  It was a fast waltz, although slight rubati in the restating of the melody added interest.  It may be considered OTT, but what a triumph of invention, and of pianistic prowess.

The encore was by ‘a twentieth century British composer you may have heard of – Dudley Moore’!   It was the latter’s tribute to Beethoven.  Whether Beethoven would have been as amused as we were, we cannot tell.  The theme was the first part of the well-known ‘Colonel Bogey’ (of ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ fame), and it was treated to many of Beethoven’s characteristics of composition – exaggerated, of course.  There was a touch of ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’ from ‘The Pajama Game’, even a fugue, and at the end of the numerous near-endings, touches of the Moonlight Sonata.  It was extremely clever, brilliantly played, and with some humorous gestures – though not as many as its composer would have employed.

We were treated to a demonstration of first-class pianism.  Piers Lane never came between the music and the large audience.  The composers were admirably served, and everyone present must have been supremely delighted.

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