Thursday, 22 August 2019

MUSIC REVIEW: Chetham's Piano Festival: Brahms And Schubert - The Stoller Hall, Manchester.

After the Brahms’ Piano Concerto evening yesterday, Murray McLachlan presented a contrapuntal study on the two piano concertos which he arranged last year. The musicologist Busoni commented on the similarities between the two slow movements of Brahms’ two piano concertos and this McLachlan informed us that this led him to wonder if the similarities between both movements could be further explored. This led him to merge both works, with suitable tweaks, and rearrange orchestral parts for two pianos. This was a mean effort which had mixed success.

It was performed by McLachlan and his talented son Callum and we were informed that Callum was a fairly last minute substitute for another pianist who had to cancel. Both pianists performed impressively and although there were a few minor tricky corners, given the circumstances, it was a well performed piece. There were some elements of dissonance that I was unsure of – were these clashes from the arrangement or possibly a misplaced beat or finger. This study was dense at times, and intense but yet Brahms’ concertos are both equally heavy – this is part of their beauty. I would guess that McLachlan may review this study for any future performance.

Continuing with a solo programme, Murray McLachlan performed the Schubert Fantasy in C – Wanderer. This was a slightly disappointing performance that flagged at times. McLachlan is clearly an accomplished pianist but it is possible that both his performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No 1 the night before, and the premiere of his challenging and taxing study which he had just played needed to be followed by something lighter than the Wanderer for player and audience alike. His technical approach was flawless, but there was less direction in the phrasing and this did not quite get off the page.

This was more than compensated for in McLachlan’s final performance of the night – Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 in F minor. This is also a huge piece, with five movements, which is unusual for a sonata which typically has three movements. McLachlan really shone here, particularly in extended quiet sections in which an unearthly hush emanated from the piano like a yearning whisper. The audience was clearly moved and awed by this performance, almost to the point of incredulity.

Reviewer - Aaron Loughrey
on - 19/8/19

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