Review: Paul Lewis – Piano, Snape Proms, August 10

Pianist Paul Lewis who performed at the Snape Proms

Pianist Paul Lewis who performed at the Snape Proms - Credit: Archant

Paul Lewis’ reputation continues to grow and he drew a full house to the Maltings on Wednesday for a fine recital of Schubert, Brahms and Liszt.

He began with Schubert’s early B major sonata D575 in which many of the composer’s strengths are already evident, particularly the harmonic invention and subtle shifts of rhythm. Lewis judged the moods and tempi to perfection and if the stormy central section of the slow movement seemed rather more like hail at times, that was perhaps what the composer intended. The finale had a most infectious lilt and charm.

Either side of the interval were two collections of Brahms, his early Ballades op 10 followed by the Three Intermezzi, op 117. The contrast between the confident and forceful young man and the mature, wiser composer nearly forty years later was most instructive. Lewis gave the ballades all the technical elan and full tone required and there were some stirring moments as well as passages of deep beauty. The reflective, wistful writing in the later works was wonderfully portrayed, a gentle musical musing on the nature of things with the quietly rippling demisemiquavers of the Bb minor work creating a moment of perfect calm.

The concluding work was Liszt’s Fantasia quasi Sonata: Apres une lecture du Dante, the grandiose title entirely in keeping with the evocative and sometimes visionary music that Dante’s poetry, particularly The Divine Comedy, inspired in the composer. It is a mighty challenge but Paul Lewis is a pianist fully equal to the task. Not once in this piece was there any doubt that he was completely in control and there were no distracting mannerisms or even an occasional encounter with a handkerchief. Lewis had a firm grip on the overall arch of the music and he created some ethereal images in the higher registers of the instrument. The bravura passages had a thunderous resonance as well as crystalline clarity and the concluding tremolandos were bewitching. It was an evening of superb playing offering the audience music from some of the less frequented corners of the piano repertory.

Gareth Jones


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