<< -- 3 -- Malcolm Tattersall DARKNESS TO LIGHT
This Festival is already starting to take shape as an individual event. To be sure, it is largely based on the formula of previous festivals -- centred on nineteenth-century repertoire for piano and strings in the Civic Theatre -- but new players appear every year alongside returnees and different composers or styles receive special attention.
By this time we have heard nearly all of the artists once or twice. It is apparent that James Buswell will be one of the dominant musical personalities, both from the extra workload he has accepted and from his outstanding musicianship.
Of the pianists, Pascal Rogé and Piers Lane were already well known here through recordings and, in the case of Lane, previous concert appearances; we expected much from them, and have not been disappointed. Meng-Chieh Liu, however, is here for the first time and it has been a particular delight to discover his talents. He draws a spectacularly wide range of tone from the instrument, from the glittering cimbalom sounds of Friday's Dvorák to gentle warmth in Vasks and brutal angularity in Prokofiev, and he communicates well with his fellow musicians on stage, always responding to the interplay of themes and willing to stand in the spotlight or step aside into the shadows as the music demands.
The extra-musical subjects emerging from the programming cluster around war and the power of music to help us transcend tyranny and oppression. They are explicit in concerts later in the week, but the power of the Shostakovich and Prokofiev pieces to lead listeners through darkness to light, and the willingness of the listeners to make that difficult journey, already augur well for the days to come.