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The third recital in the series was given by Sam Armstrong, who chose to perform a very emotionally challenging programme. He opened with Chopin's party-piece, the Variations Brilliantes Op 12, which sparkled, demonstrating his beautiful touch and natural, uncontrived sense of rubato. Janácek's terse, but emotionally dense, two movement Sonata 1.X 1905 followed. The first movement was dramatic and exploratory, providing layers of various sounds. The second movement, while beautifully shaped, didn't quite capture the atmosphere of tragedy and resignation, being too forward-driven; the moments of rest, which were often rushed, needed much more space.

After a beautiful Brahms Intermezzo, Sam launched into Beethoven's final C minor Sonata Op 111. The highlight of this was without doubt the second movement, in which this pianist's acute awareness of sound and natural pacing from variation to variation resulted in a performance that was, without any exaggeration, truly transcendental, captivating the small audience and joining them in one unified, collective sense of awe for this remarkable music.

The final lunchtime recital was given by the extraordinarily prodigious twelve-year-old Mishka Momen, performing Beethoven's Sonata Op 27 No 1, Liszt's Legende No 1 St Francois d'Assis and Schumann's Faschingsschwang aus Wien Op 26. It was remarkable to see this young girl walk reticently on stage, sit at the piano and begin to play so naturally, confidently and without any interference to the musical flow. In terms of pianism Mishka was astounding for a girl her age for her balancing of chords, awareness of phrasing, sense of rhythm and overall technical command. Listening to her was at times an unnerving experience: just when one would write her off as musically immature she would produce a moment or a phrase of great musical depth. The entire recital was a constant interchange between a naivety or lack of life experience (as would only be expected in a girl so young), seen particularly in the Beethoven slow movement, and a sense of maturity. She was most convincing in the Schumann which was frequently breath-taking for its musical understanding. Here is a girl who, without doubt, has the potential for a fantastic career on the platform.

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Copyright © 12 September 2004 Manus Carey, London UK


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