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And while there was more Rachmaninov to come in two famous Preludes as encores, there was also something of an echo of Rachmaninov in Hobson's exciting reading of the Liszt B minor sonata, projected as if he were conducting an orchestral arrangement (a feat which Hobson has in fact achieved in the USA)! There was hardly a moment to breathe in the relentless structural sweep of the piece in which contrapuntal complexities were dazzlingly projected. Rather than dwell and savour the lyrical delicacy of the slow passages, this was a performance in which suspense was sustained throughout the continual striving and transformation of themes towards a fiery finale.

Ian Hobson. Photo © 2006 Christian Steiner
Ian Hobson. Photo © 2006 Christian Steiner

Hobson's technical wizardry and immersion in the orchestral colour of the piano, however, was best matched to the final work, the Rhapsodie Roumaine No 1 by George Enescu in the composer's own amazing transcription, made in 1951, fifty years after the composition of the highly popular orchestral original. In this version, the brilliant instrumental colours, notably woodwind and brass and percussion, of the swirling folk dances are translated into pianistic fireworks of the most imaginative kind, especially a recurrent passage that suggested klezmer-like clarinets and shimmering strings and cimbalom, based around an unresolved dominant 7th. Hobson's leonine technique was phenomenal, completely attuned to the spirit of this work, with its sparkling rhythms and exotic harmonies, creating a spectacular effect that possibly even outdid the orchestral version in sheer exhilaration, and which offered a rare and rewarding treat in concert experience.

Copyright © 22 April 2006 Malcolm Miller, London UK



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