Review: Andrew Leach - Piano, Ipswich School Festival, September 22

Andrew Leach - Piano, Ipswich School Festival, September 22

Ipswich School’s Festival of music continued on Thursday with a piano recital by the School’s Director of Music, Andrew Leach.

So much fine music has been, and continues to be, written for the instrument that putting together a recital might be compared to the proverbial child in a sweetshop, an almost infinite array of enticing possibilities on offer.

Leach’s recital, judiciously chosen and ranging from the virtuosic and visionary to the cool and cryptic, and from Central Europe to America to Ipswich, proved an absorbing and fascinating evening.

In Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, the music soared as effectively as the composer could have wished and in the quieter Warum Leach touched precisely the spirit of the music.

Chopin’s stormy Bb minor Scherzo growled ominously in the opening bars before bursting forth in dazzling passage work, yet the lyrical passages were perfectly poised and the performance as a whole completely satisfying.

The Liszt bicentenary has provided opportunities to hear some of his less frequently performed music and the programme included two late works, Unstern and the third Mephisto Waltz, the former dark and probing, the second a virtuosic telling of events at a wedding feast at which things turn sour. Both were superbly realised.

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A notable feature of the second half was two compositions from Ipswich School. Former pupil and established composer David Sawer was represented by his short, effective Diversions and current Music Scholar Sebastian Black by his newly composed to start, to hesitate; to stop, commissioned and performed by Andrew Leach. It is an arresting piece, particularly the opening with its tremolo effects. I would not pretend to have grasped it all at one hearing but here is a serious young composer with something to say and we shall hear more of him.

Webern’s aphoristic but satisfying Variations completed the ‘more difficult’ section of the recital that was flanked by music from America – Dave Grusin and George Gershwin. Leach exuded fun and happiness with these pieces and the enjoyment communicated itself to the audience. Grusin’s Memphis Stomp stood out as something a bit different but really, everything was exhilaratingly enjoyable.

Gareth Jones