Arts & Books: Classical: Youthful passion

Finghin Collins Wigmore Hall London
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The Independent Culture
YOU CAN tell a lot from the way a pianist walks on to the platform. Finghin Collins was obviously relaxed on Friday night. He's a lanky 22- year-old Irishman, who sat as far from the keyboard as his long arms allowed. He started with three of Busoni's bass-heavy Bach chorale arrangements, the first of which (Wachet auf) flowed very naturally, with the tune spelt out naked and unashamed against its accompanying voices. The second and third chorales weren't quite so poised. Collins began Nun komm der Heiden Heiland more steadily than he seemed willing to sustain, and in Nun freut euch the rapid top voice was a bit too loud for the chorale tune and bass to be heard comfortably.

But those were his only miscalculations in a highly accomplished recital. His main item before the interval was Beethoven's challenging A major Sonata, Op 101. He unfolded its first movement confidently and naturally, and the tricky, march-like second movement was solid and muscular without any sign of strain. He also had the measure of the deeply felt slow interlude preceding the finale, where all the tough intricacy of Beethoven's busy counterpoint was perfectly controlled, yet galvanised with the occasional touches of impatience that are so characteristic.

Collins had written his own, highly readable programme notes, and though comparing Scriabin's Second Sonata to Beethoven's "Moonlight" struck me as a bit farfetched, he elucidated the complex melodic textures of the Russian's first movement with complete ease and raced through the shadows of the second, undaunted by its many technical traps. How did Scriabin, who had quite small hands, manage it?

Perhaps the best thing in the whole evening was Berg's Sonata - impulsive passion and languorous deliquescence in due measure, and a complete understanding of the tensions and shape of this obsessively wrought single movement. It also gave Collins the chance to enjoy some luxurious tone colouring.

Which he also did in a very stylish, crisp performance of Liszt's Soirees de Vienne, with its paraphrasing of two Schubert waltzes. He pulled some very nice tricks from his sleeve in Liszt's Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody, too, tempering an easy bravura with just a touch of prudence.

The two encores were well chosen: Chopin's F sharp major Nocturne, simple but flexible, and a sort of wrong-note Cakewalk, whose wit was presented with immaculate understatement.

Adrian Jack