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
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 4 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Three million books were judged by their covers - this is what happened
Anne Hathaway is already being stung by Hollywood ageism, aged 32
No Escape, film review: Thriller generates plenty of excitement but soon collapses
The Lobster trailer: Colin Farrell has 45 days to find a lover or he'll be turned into an animal
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees