Barry Douglas, Cadogan Hall, London

3.00

One of Barry Douglas's tutors once gave me a revealing character-sketch of his pupil. If you were approaching a narrow passage with him, he said, Barry would be impeccably considerate and courteous. But then you would discover that he had somehow got through first: he always had to be out in front. Which is where this Belfast-born pianist has been ever since he won the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, 22 years ago.

Whether in his choice of repertoire, or in his championing of new work, or in wielding a baton as director of Camerata Ireland, he's resolutely ploughed his own furrow. So it was no surprise that he should begin his Cadogan Hall recital with some pieces whose studied avoidance of any kind of charm has ensured that they are very seldom performed.

Schumann wrote his Three Romances at a triumphant point in his youthful love-life, and you can sense this triumph in the way he creates the first romance out of the most unpromising semitonal three-note phrase. Douglas laid down its melodic contours with a firm touch and a big sound, as befitted Schumann's markings, and he made a virtue of its austere economy. He brought a strong cantabile to the ballad-like piece that followed, and let the final one meander where it chose.

With Ravel's ferociously demanding Gaspard de la Nuit, Douglas was technically in his element, but one waited in vain for the fleeting delicacy in the movement portraying the water-nymph Ondine. In "Le gibet", the corpse swung and the bell tolled mournfully, and "Scarbo" became a riot of fire and thunder. Under Douglas's fingers, the segue from this to Liszt's Dante sonata was almost too natural: both were, at root, expressions of muscular force under cool control.

One, therefore, looked forward with interest to seeing how he would tackle Schubert's Olympian final sonata, but this proved a huge disappointment. Its grave poetry – the infinitely subtle interplay of gaiety and grimness, light and shade – completely passed Douglas by. Ironic that he should choose one of Brahms's most delicately allusive intermezzi as an encore, delivering it with a properly poetic touch.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea