Piano recitals

Valerie Tryon, Graham Scott | Wigmore Hall, London
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The Independent Culture

Some people won't go in an empty restaurant because they say the food must be bad. Quality is not always where the crowds are, and there certainly wasn't a crowd at Valerie Tryon's recital last Monday. One of the finest British pianists around, although she has lived in Canada for many years, Tryon is a musician's musician, and those with intimate practical knowledge can appreciate the mastery behind her modesty. Surely, too, the most innocent ear will appreciate her naturalness and the way she makes everything sing.

Some people won't go in an empty restaurant because they say the food must be bad. Quality is not always where the crowds are, and there certainly wasn't a crowd at Valerie Tryon's recital last Monday. One of the finest British pianists around, although she has lived in Canada for many years, Tryon is a musician's musician, and those with intimate practical knowledge can appreciate the mastery behind her modesty. Surely, too, the most innocent ear will appreciate her naturalness and the way she makes everything sing.

Oddly enough, Tryon is particularly associated with flamboyant romantic music (she used to be married to Liszt's biographer Alan Walker), and on Monday she included Ravel's complete set of Miroirs as well as Liszt's triptych, Venezia e Napoli. The technical hurdles of both left her completely unruffled, and she made nothing vulgar out of Liszt's splashes of local colour, but seemed to be improvising for her own pleasure in a spirit of affectionate reminiscence. In Miroirs she restrained the volume of the strongest passages, but found a wealth of softer dynamic shadings, and in "Alborada del gracioso", reduced the abrupt contrasts of tempo to make a more subtly moulded piece than usual. "Oiseaux tristes" was melting and dusky, "La vallée des cloches" warm and drowsy.

More showmanship might have suited four of Rachmaninov's Op 39 Etudes-tableaux, but four sonatas by Scarlatti were so effortless and delicately shaded, they seemed to play themselves. And with her second encore, Chopin's D flat Nocturne, Tryon gave an object lesson in mellow "cantabile" without advertising the fact. Perhaps she is too good a pianist to create a sensation.

Graham Scott, a much younger pianist, gave his recital on Friday in aid of Barnado's. He sits very far back from the keyboard, on a low stool, arms almost fully extended and chews his own mouth as if he's just about keeping a team of frisky horses under control. At the climax of a masterly performance of Chopin's "Polonaise-Fantaisie", the tension in Scott's playing showed a bit too much in the tightening of his right hand.

He hardly needed to make quite so much volume - he did the opposite of Tryon, for piano often became a robust mezzo forte, both in Mozart's last, F major sonata and, more alarmingly, in the magically evanescent second section of Schumann's Kreisleriana. Throughout this cycle, Scott was often in a bullish mood, whereas he should have been nervously alert and excitable. But he really went for the penultimate number and played the final piece beautifully: here, for once, his tendency to underplay the left hand to the point of disappearance was just what Schumann wanted.

Scott's account of Agosti's arrangement of three dances from The Firebird was vivid, too, but most enjoyable of all was a soppy, ear-tickling encore, Percy Grainger's "Bridal Lullaby".

Valerie Tryon's CD of Scarlatti sonatas is on Appian APR 5591

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