Thursday, 22 August 2019

MUSIC REVIEW: Chetham's Piano Festival: Recital by Balazs Szokolay - The Stoller Hall, Manchester.

Before Balazs Szokolay came on stage, the audience were informed that a few changes had been made to this concert’s programme. Instead of playing a variety of Chopin’s nocturnes, mazurkas and Polonaises, Szokolay had decided, last minute, to cut half of these and replace them with pieces by Liszt, Scriabin and Debussy. As the name of each new piece was announced, the audience gasped with delight and incredulity! Any concert programme is meticulously practiced and prepared – for Szokolay to replace half his programme with extremely demanding pieces last minute was simply outrageous!

Yet, it was no surprise, in that Szokolay is a tremendous pianist. His opening Prelude for Left Hand by Scriabin was breathtaking. Scriabin wrote this when he had a serious injury to his right hand, which duly recovered. This piece is difficult to play with both hands and Szokolay breezed through it with a fierce pace, sacrificing none of the detail or phrasing.

Sposalizio – by Liszt – starts of simply but soon bursts into gentle fireworks which are characteristic of Liszt’s early style. The meaningful and longing opening melody was beautifully played by Szokolay, luring us into a sense of calm which soon engulfed the audience with cascading arpeggios and melodies.

Further highlights of the evening were Debussy’s two Arabesques and Liszt’s Consolation No. 3. Again, these pieces were delicate and flowing with great expression.

Szokolay chose a varied repertoire this evening but it was well crafted and created a serene yet rich and engaging mood which was appreciated by the audience.

Reviewer - Aaron Loughrey
on - 16/8/19

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