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Clarity and Honesty

Malcolm Troup's recital at St Martin-in-the-Fields,


On 12 January 2007 the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe presented a lunchtime recital at the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, given by its chairman Malcolm Troup. The (so to speak) compulsory Beethoven came in the form of the late A flat Sonata Op 110; it preceded an altogether astonishing performance of Villa-Lobos's masterpiece from the 1920s, the Rudepoema.

These days if one hears any piano music by Villa-Lobos it is likely to be the Ciclo Brasileiro or perhaps some pieces from the Prole do Bebe. Essentially miniatures, they hardly prepare one for the colossal, extravagant exuberance of the jungle-like Rudepoema, a work known mainly by reputation and whose fearsome complexity is likely to put off all but the bravest: indeed it was written for just one such, the great pianist Artur Rubinstein who had been instrumental in helping the composer to come to Paris, where his fame was transformed from that of a purely local musician to that of a major contemporary figure.

Malcolm Troup. Photo © 2007 F D G Clarey
Malcolm Troup. Photo © 2007 F D G Clarey

If there was any feeling, from his charming yet scholarly spoken introduction, that Troup would give us a lecture-recitalist's interpretation, this was immediately dispelled in a performance of such boldness, colour, bravura and structural cogency that I for one was swept away in the emotional narrative. A sonority of exceptional clarity and great rhythmic precision further helped us to follow and enjoy this overflowingly abundant score without ever feeling that we were adrift in the jungle -- as could only too easily happen in such rich, ever-shifting textures.

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Copyright © 18 January 2007 Julian Jacobson, London UK


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