Preview: Leon McCawley, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

A taste of measured musicality
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

There are many reasons for attending Leon McCawley's recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sunday - quite apart from the fact that he's the only Brit in the South Bank's International Piano Series. Those who have heard him in concert - and he's starting to loom large in the pianistic firmament - will know what dependable pleasures he purveys; those who have heard his Schumann recordings on the Avie label will be familiar with his uniquely measured musicality.

There are many reasons for attending Leon McCawley's recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sunday - quite apart from the fact that he's the only Brit in the South Bank's International Piano Series. Those who have heard him in concert - and he's starting to loom large in the pianistic firmament - will know what dependable pleasures he purveys; those who have heard his Schumann recordings on the Avie label will be familiar with his uniquely measured musicality.

He's only 31, but his playing has the mature wisdom of a man twice his age: no surprise to find his personal pantheon is dominated by those undisputed gods of the keyboard Alfred Brendel, Richard Goode, and the late Dame Myra Hess. Beethovenians all, and so is McCawley, who finds himself irresistibly attracted by the music's inherent drama.

Another of McCawley's heroes is the Russian pianist Nina Milkina, who inculcated in him the lyricism that characterises his playing. "She always told me to 'taste the keys', and that is a phrase I often keep in mind. When I'm trying to mould a phrase in a Mozart sonata, I'm always trying to create a flavour. I like to think of music as narrative, as if I'm speaking."

McCawley's current recording project is a three-CD box of the piano works of Hans Gál. Who he? A major 20th-century composer who has been undeservedly forgotten, says McCawley, and the sampler that I've heard corroborates that view. Gál dared to write tonally when all the world was going serial, and paid the price in obscurity: when Avie brings these recordings out in September, justice will be done.

Important though this project is, live performance is what McCawley lives for: even when recording, he likes to imagine that he's giving a recital, and hates being stopped in the middle of a piece. On Sunday, he's playing Scarlatti sonatas, Rachmaninov's wonderful Corelli Variations, plus Mozart and his beloved Schumann. Don't miss.

8 May (0870 401 8181)

Comments