<< -- 2 -- Malcolm Miller VARIATIONS
Two Beethoven sonatas ensued: Op 79 in G is also not often played in
recital -- yet in Howard's hands full of wonderful rhythmic subtleties,
and character especially the finale's legato winding melody richly
sustained, and with wistful momentum. The E major sonata Op 109 had a supple
and expressive quality in which the piano's bright sonority gained
a bell-like edge well suited to Beethoven's fine tracery and melodic
lines. Pianistically this was a fine performance, the variations shaded
with delicacy, and building affirmatively to the visionary fugue and return
to peaceful contemplation.
Leslie Howard has a distinctively bright piano sound, a projection within
which he works with great variety and expression, more disposed towards
bravura than introspective intensity, though his moments of poetry
are truly engaging. Such was the case in his excitingly paced and cogently
structured interpretation of the Etudes Symphoniques by Schumann.
Each variation flowed effortlessly, some textures coming across in a very
impressionistic way, reminiscent of Rachmaninov.
The climax was Howard's brilliant performance of his own edition
(and completion) of Liszt's Fantaisie über Themen aus Mozart's
Figaro und Don Giovanni S.697 (1842), one of the gems in his monumental
complete Liszt recording project on the Hyperion label that came to fruition
in the Autumn of 1999. Here the simple tune of Cherubino's aria from
Figaro is subject to myriad metamorphoses, alongside the quaint Minuet
of the wedding scene in Don Giovanni, all of which builds a majestic
structure to a breathtaking conclusion. Nonchalant, and almost without a
trace of effort, Leslie Howard allowed the notes to cascade, judging the
textures to shape and vary the tone even in the most demanding octave passages.
Impressive pianism, and in a good cause.
Copyright © 3 April 2001
Malcolm Miller, London, UK
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