Classical Music Review: Francois Frederic Guy St John's Smith Square, L ondon
Friday 12 April 1996
Beethoven's Opus 109 Sonata is, by comparison, an understatement - the sobriety and conciseness of a composer who has fought many long battles in the past. Guy kept the first movement flowing, enhancing its character as a prelude. But he opened fire in the second movement, while distancing its quieter sections with a sense of the transcendent beyond. He introduced a lot of shading in the theme of the final variations, gilding the lily rather, though the contrasts among the variations themselves were impressive and ranged from furious energy to serenity. It's not easy to give the profoundly positive quality of this music its due value - it's played so often that it has become over familiar. Ideally, perhaps, the Sonata should come at the end of a programme, yet Guy's performance in no way sold it short.
After the interval, it was back to the overstatement of comparative youth, with Brahms's Sonata No 3 in F. Schumann described Brahms's early sonatas as "veiled symphonies", and because of Guy's technical ease, which allowed him to take the considerable pianistic hurdles in his stride, and also because of his feeling for the magisterial formal perspectives to which Brahms aspired (however much he, Brahms, stumbled in reaching towards them) - because of this architectural sense, Guy invited you to dress the thing up mentally in orchestral colours, transforming the strain of its textures and disguising the awkwardness of its transitions in the sumptuous warmth of a work like the First Symphony. He didn't sit back and expand his belly in the first movement - his Brahms may have been a heavyweight, but he was fit and agile, too. The most sheerly beautiful playing came where it was most called for, in the slow second movement, which started in a spirit of unobtrusive modesty, as if the music just wafted in on the breeze, and reached, in the final section - so reluctant to come to an end - a hushed intensity swelling to an effulgent climax that was ineffable.
As if that weren't enough, Guy ended the evening with wave upon wave of quasi-orchestral ecstasy in Isolde's Liebestod. Magnificent playing. Go and hear him, if you can, at St John's tomorrow evening, when his second London recital includes more Beethoven and Liszt, as well as Debussy, Scriabin and Bartok.
n Tomorrow, 7.30pm. Booking: 0171-222 1061
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Police shoot and kill second young black man near Ferguson
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 Why are UK rail fares so expensive?
- 4 Here’s the damning letter Robin Williams wrote to his Mrs Doubtfire co-star's principal after they expelled her
- 5 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
Calvin Harris named highest-paid DJ in the world ahead of David Guetta and Avicii
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
The funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Tim Vine wins for second time
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head