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No longer one of British music's best-kept secrets!
As reported by MALCOLM TROUP


With the coinage of concert reviews so debased that as early as the 30s of the last century Constant Lambert could come up with a standard review to fit all occasions, who will help me find the words to distinguish between 'great' and 'good enough' playing in terms of the piano? Because, in a day where 'good enough' equates with a passable live copy of the CD on which rests the commercial grounds for such concert-promotion, that is the vocabulary I need if I am to do justice to Julian Jacobson's festive 60th Birthday Concert at the Wigmore Hall on Thursday 22 November 2007. We need only consider the ink spilled on flash-in-the-pan precocity as compared with natural processes of maturation and mastery where the time taken (over a lifetime) makes our short attention-span lose track of the protracted miracle at work.

Such was the achievement of Julian Jacobson, whose commanding presence on the platform -- so distinct from his normal self-absorbed unassuming manner -- calmed the usual audience jitters and seemed to call forth from them the same rapt concentration on his opening work, Schumann's Fantasiestücke, as he had enjoined on himself. Before they knew it, they would have their ears entangled in the gossamer traceries of Des Abends.

Aufschwung, the second piece of the cycle, could have stood as the title of the recital as a whole, so much did it epitomise its uplifting and forward-flowing spirit -- as unstoppable as Jacobson's mental projection of the work against which any resistant materiality of fingers or instrument was powerless to prevail. Indeed, it counted as some of the most 'inner-directed' playing (or as Schumann has it: 'sehr innig zu spielen') which it has been my lot to experience and which opened the way to Jacobson's listeners to penetrate deep into the core of a music where few pianists are qualified to venture. Notwithstanding Bülow's charge that Schumann's metronome was 'defective', the fact that Jacobson remained close to the composer's markings throughout proved them to involve no loss in spontaneity, intimacy and lightning mood-shifts. There was a sense that a signal had been activated, the flood-gates opened and every nagging intimation of earthbound mortality overcome in this outpouring of sheerest transcendence.

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Copyright © 3 December 2007 Malcolm Troup, London UK


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