Review: Andrew Leach – Piano, Ipswich Chamber Music Society, October 3rd

Andrew Leach opened the Ipswich Chamber Music Society's 2015-16 programme with a performance of Jana

Andrew Leach opened the Ipswich Chamber Music Society's 2015-16 programme with a performance of Janaceks cycle On an Overgrown Path

Ipswich Chamber Music Society opened their 2015-16 programme with a piano recital by Andrew Leach which fitted into the Ipswich School Festival where he had been Director of Music until his recent retirement.

The opening piece was one from Janacek’s cycle ‘On an Overgrown Path’ and the title was somewhat suggestive of the whole evening; neither overgrown nor hidden paths exactly, but much of the music was from less frequented corners of the repertory. All the better for that and Andrew brought a fresh and invigorating zest to everything he played.

Janacek’s only piano sonata is actually a highly personal response to the killing of a peaceful demonstrator in his home town of Brno in 1905. The composer’s recognisable fingerprints, so well-known from his operas, are again used to good effect and the pianist brought out the brooding tension and created a gripping narrative.

Schumann’s Humoresque is a large-scale and well written work but it lags behind several of the composer’s other piano compositions in popularity. It was, therefore, a particular pleasure to hear such a compelling and dextrous performance that perfectly captured the mercurial changes of mood and colour.

If Schumann made significant technical and musical innovations in his piano music then so did Liszt but perhaps even more so. Liszt caught the romantic movement in full swing and in his Annees des Pelerinage he gave pianistic expression to some of the great European sights, sounds, stories and superheroes. Andrew performed the first five pieces from ‘Suisse’ with an acute feel for the atmosphere and scale of the music. Au lac had the crispness of pure alpine air and I have never heard such fresh and sparkling trickles and sprinkles of water as in Au bord. Orage is some challenge but the elements roared and lashed with power and elan.

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And the excitement was not over, though now on a smaller scale. Bartok’s Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm are a fascinating amalgam of East European folk and Western influences underpinned by strong and often irregular beats. Once again Andrew Leach was right on the mark and an appropriate encore returned us to Janacek and concluded a wonderful exploration of middle European piano music.

Gareth Jones

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