Piano 40's eighth London concert,
reviewed by BILL NEWMAN
To close 2003, BBC4 relayed a monster concert from Verbier. An epic gathering of international celebrities clattered and crashed through an endless selection of popular classical items, like Rossini's Semiramide Overture and Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. At some place after the start, one of the SCART leads fell out of my video recorder and I ended up with sound minus picture. What a shame! It was so terrible, with artists pulling faces, their arms and fingers descending from great heights like Rubinstein performing The Ritual Fire Dance, but rarely hitting the keys simultaneously. The 'arrangements' were by a few well-known composer-virtuosi from the past supplemented by a small number from the present. But I shouldn't be so caustic in my remarks: the audience hollered, whistled and screeched like Wimbledon tennis supporters, or those dreaded Royal Albert Hall promenaders who mar real music lovers' enjoyment. Antony Hopkins' Midsummer Madness, in the same hall many years back, presented this kind of farrago far more accurately and persuasively.
The audience -- I should say proven loyal fans -- who troup happily into London's Purcell Room, mainly to hear latest original scores by a total of twenty three present-day composers who've written especially for Piano 40, have no such hangups. Occasionally, you will hear works by Smetana, Moscheles and Moszkowski, but everyone is aware of the players' naturally expressive high standard performances, brilliantly conceived and authentic in style, but devoid of the kind of youthful frills, flippancies and high jinks that infect our concert halls, airwaves and television screens. Somehow, I envisage this group's unique standing as a necessary corrective which reinstates and extends older listeners' past pleasures of duo pianists like Bartlett and Robertson, the Trimble Sisters, Smith and Sellick, Rawicz and Laudauer. The sheer range of musical matter alongside disciplined togetherness have much in common.
Copyright © 22 April 2004
Bill Newman, Edgware UK