St Andrew’s lunchtime concert
Louis Lucas-Perry (piano)
Haydn: Piano Sonata in F, Hob. XVI/23
Debussy: La cathédrale engloutie, No 10 of Preludes, Book I
Liszt: Ballade No 2 in B minor, S. 171
Chopin: Polonaise No 3 in A, Op 40 No 1 (‘Military’)
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday 7 June 2017, 12:15 pm
Louis Lucas-Perry’s brief biography printed in the programme writes of performances in Upper Hutt and Nelson (a Grieg Piano Concerto there), of winning a New Zealand School of Music ‘Directors’ Scholarship. He offers no information about the schools attended, but mentions teaching and accompanying the Big Sing, students’ choral festival, and chamber music groups.
I notice that I reviewed a student concert that included him in October 2015; there he also played Liszt’s Ballade No 2.
However, on the evidence of his playing he has reached a very respectable level of both technical skill and musical insight. He opened with Haydn’s splendid piano sonata in F major, a fine response to the key which inspires many composers to music that is open, cheerful, often witty (think Mozart’s piano concerto No 19, Beethoven’s Pastoral and No 8, Dvorak’s American quartet). This was staccato, bright, limpid, delighting in sudden modulations, which clearly also delighted the pianist.
Never mind that the second movement, Adagio, in F minor, changes the mood sharply, with a lamenting tone but employing one of Haydn’s most affecting melodies. Haydn can scarcely release it and it returns, blessedly, time and time again, played with infinite tenderness. The melody has such poignancy that I was convinced that I’d heard it long ago, but not for many, many years. I’m sure that everyone in the audience (of around 70) would have been entranced and that all copies of CDs of it in the library would have disappeared shortly after the concert. The last movement restored the spirit of delight (suddenly Shelley came into my head: ‘Rarely, rarely, comest thou, / Spirit of Delight!’ Though the next lines are not so pertinent – ‘Wherefore hast thou left me now / Many a day and night?’).
Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral doesn’t present obvious, enormous technical problems – merely the huge challenge of playing Debussy properly. So it was played carefully, perhaps too carefully for the strangeness of the imagery to emerge with a great feeling of mystery. After all, it’s in C major, mostly.
Liszt’s 2nd Ballade used to be familiar, played on the 2YC, predecessor radio station to RNZ Concert, dinner music programme. But it’s not much played by professionals today; why not? It contains lots of characteristic Liszt – melodic, passionate, mysterious – and Lucas-Perry clearly responded to it with a genuine Lisztian instinct. The pianist’s own imagined ‘programme’ – the legend of Hero and Leander – wasn’t a bad idea as long as one didn’t try to fit it literally to the story. But there were sufficient thundering bass passages and turbulent storm-tossed seas to fit all sorts of romantic legends. And he did a convincing job of telling the tragic tale.
Chopin’s Military Polonaise too, used to be a familiar dinner-music piece on radio (such times now seem to be filled by arrangements for inappropriate instruments of opera tunes and flashy scraps of well-known popular classics). Lucas-Perry took the march-like music cautiously but again demonstrated an ability to play all the notes accurately and capture the spirit of Chopin quite convincingly.
An engaging and enjoyable recital.