James Rhodes, Queen Elizabeth Hall (4/5)
Monday 28 November 2011
Every concert programme tells a story, even one as exiguous as that for James Rhodes. Nothing about the works to be played, just a list – JS Bach, F Chopin, M Moszkowski, and a certain LV Beethoven, which suggests it was written by a computer.
Nothing about the pianist, except for an invitation to follow him on Twitter. All of which is code for: this concert is about the man, and you know him already.
It was clear the audience - unusually young for a classical event - did. No need to remind them of his drugs, sectioning, and late conversion to pianism. Since his sudden irruption onto the scene three years ago, he’s traded shamelessly on all that, presenting his performances – with louche digressions on the echoes between his traumas and those of his chosen composers - as part of his ongoing therapy. He offers the foul-mouthed charm of a rock-star in rehab.
And here he was again, coming on in faux-diamond sneakers like a poor man’s Lang Lang, sitting straight down and playing some slow Bach. But beautifully. ‘Classical music,’ he announced when he’d finished. ‘Serious. Like this hundred thousand pound Steinway. Serious. Like these fucking shoes. Very serious.’ He didn’t like that word ‘serious’ for classical music. ‘I prefer intense, but I like to challenge people’s perceptions.’ Now he would play a sonata by his hero. ‘Beethoven. An evil genius, a tramp-like figure saying, I compose what I like, and if you don’t like it, tough shit.’ Then he played the ‘Waldstein’ sonata, one of Beethoven’s most austere and technically demanding works. There were points where his technique threatened to let him down – I’d put him at second-year conservatoire level – but the warmth and epic sweep came triumphantly across. This was followed by a Moszkowski study - ‘pianism’s equivalent of Formula One’ – serenely brought off. After warming us up for the second half with Rachmaninov's most celebrated prelude, he discoursed raunchily about Bach’s sex life before embarking on Busoni’s transcription of the D minor Chaconne. Playing with a gorgeously singing tone, he fully honoured this work’s Herculean conception. His firework encores were fun, but reasonably accomplished.
In short, this one-time basket-case has transcended his past, got musically serious, and become a very effective ambassador for classical music. Bravo.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 4 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 5 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
Glastonbury 2015: Coldplay will not headline but Florence Welch might play, says Emily Eavis
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Mal Peet dead at 67: Tributes to children's author who was 'universally adored'
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'