On Monday evening in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Paul Lewis performed a program of Beethoven Bagatelles Op 126 and Brahms Piano Pieces Op 118 flanked by two Haydn Sonatas.
In the Beethoven Bagatelles, the Romantic canvas of moods and gestures were lovingly communicated. This music with – its sliding and abrupt emotional changes clearly looks forward to the likes of Schumann and Lewis was in a rhapsodic mood in the virtuosic No 4, expansive in the grand sweeping qualities of No 3 and charmingly simple in the Quasi allegretto of No 5.
Lewis brought similar qualities to the heftier textures of the Brahms Op 118 with a beautiful rendition of the lyrical Intermezzo in A and a sweetness of character to the central section of the Ballade.
Perhaps the performances that linger most in memory beyond the end of the concert were the sparkling performances of both Haydn sonatas. In the C Major Sonata Hob.XVI:50, Lewis picked off the spiky humour of the first movement successfully, and delivered a fine lyrical second before a dashing finale. In the G Major Sonata Hob.XVI:40, the charming first movement theme was played with childlike delight by Lewis and the humorous conclusion to the finale was perfectly abrupt and elicited a big chuckle from the audience.
Lewis concluded the concert with an encore of Schubert’s Allegretto in C minor, a piece cut out of the same mould as all the miniatures we had heard from the Beethoven and Brahms pieces earlier. But here, Schubert’s structure is even more crystal clear, simple, allowing Lewis’ illumination of that typical light and darkness of Schubert’s major and minor juxtapositions to endlessly weave its magic. This piece could easily end in the major!
Editor’s note: it was a big weekend for our reviewers with frightful weather predictions causing everything from cancellation of Opera at the Music Bow to relocation (Hamer Singers) to discouragement for prospective audiences. Our reviewer Hoang Pham’s own concert for Saturday night was a sell-out but disappointingly some people were unable to attend – including myself – hence Hoang was not reviewed by Classic Melbourne, as originally planned. I hear that his concert with Zelman Symphony was very well-received; Peter Hagen used the word “brilliance” in his review for Classikon and rejoiced at being able to say of this concert: “Well, that was good!”
My point here is simply to applaud Hoang Pham for being happy to venture out to hear another pianist (with the weather still unpredictable), and to deliver a generous review of it.
This is typical of the Classic Melbourne reviewing team. In the new year look out for the bios of our nearly 12-strong regular reviewers, as well other features planned for the site, still the top two returns on Google for the search term “classical music reviews Melbourne”. Add “opera and music theatre” and we’re still doing well. Others may do better with an Australia-wide coverage but we know our city!
Thanks for reading!
Suzanne Yanko, Editor Classic Melbourne