St Andrew’s lunchtime concerts
Piano Students of the New Zealand School of Music
Haydn: Piano Sonata in E minor, Hob XVI/34
Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F minor, Op 57 “Appassionata” (first movement)
Haydn: Piano Sonata in C minor, Hob XVI/20
Liszt: Transcendental Etude No 11 in D flat, S 139/11 “Harmonies du soir”
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday 12 September, 12:15 pm
This was another in the series of concerts from NZSM students that have been presented recently in the lunchtime concert series at St Andrew’s on The Terrace.
There were three pianists here: two, first year, and one in her third year. Both the first year students played a minor key Haydn sonata, while the third year student, Claudia Tarrant-Matthews, played the formidable first movement of Beethoven’s Appassionata (another minor key piece).
Saskia Hazlewood played Haydn’s Sonata no 34 in E minor, handling with confidence the unrelenting staccato in the first movements, with no needless ornaments. The particularly marked hesitations in the slow movement enhanced the ‘Sturm und Drang’ feeling that it creates (it wasn’t just in the symphonies that that early mark of Romanticism existed). And the Vivace finale is one of Haydn’s most delightful, left untroubled by the odd, minor slip.
The second Haydn sonata was No 20, in C minor, played by Liam Furey. That too was a performance that seemed rather beyond what I might have expected from a first year student: thoughtful, with interesting dynamic contrasts and a surprising slow passage in the middle. The middle movement, Andante con moto, is long and without strong melodic character; so it depended more on the pianist’s own imaginative resources, which were quite evident. One might have interpreted its character as being another foreshadowing of Romantic spirit. His fluent playing of the Finale was further evidence of Furey’s grasp of Haydn’s wit and musical inventiveness.
Then Furey played one of Liszt’s formidable Transcendental Etudes. Not all are of insurmountable difficulty; they are just hugely challenging and emotionally intense. The most tumultuous part of No 11, Harmonies du soir, comes some time before the end; it follows stretches of rapturous, nocturnal music that becomes increasingly passionate and then subsides. The pianist revealed an impressive feat of memory and grasp of Liszt’s aesthetic.
Claudia Tarrant-Matthews’s offering was more challenging inasmuch as the Appassionata is so familiar that one is likely to compare it, unconsciously, to the sounds of consummate performances by the greatest pianists. There was no shame in having the score in front of her for the lengthy and demanding first movement. Her handling of the vivid contrasts that Beethoven presents, cutting between brief, rapturous, melodic passages and sudden irruptions of passion showed her grasp of its entire dramatic narrative.
It was an impressive performance. As were those by the other two young pianists.