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Nicola Meecham plays
Haydn, Schubert, Ravel, Prokofiev and Gershwin,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Nicola Meecham's programme [Multi-Faith Centre, Derby University, UK, 18 January 2008] was a neatly balanced pairing of two Viennese classics with two major works from the early twentieth century.

In Haydn's Sonata in E, Hob 31, there was some crisp, clear fingerwork in the first movement but also rhythmic waywardness. Rubato tended to impede the steady flow of the second movement, while the finale did not really capture the music's mischievous twinkle.

She felt much more at home in Schubert's G major sonata, D894; indeed, this was a really compelling experience. The background calm of the first movement was superbly maintained, allowing the eruptive climaxes to stand out all the more sharply. The third movement had a truculence that was not out of place, while the distant vision of the trio section was genuinely poignant.

Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit which opened the second half, did not quite capture the soft even shimmer called for at the start of 'Ondine', while 'Le Gibet' never really got down to the quiet dynamic level Ravel asks for, mainly I suspect because of the piano, since Nicola Meecham's playing was aptly hypnotic in other respects. The performance really hit its stride in 'Scarbo', a suitably athletic study in coruscating malevolence.

A triumphant performance of Prokofiev's 2nd Sonata ended the evening, with a fine control of the driving rhythms in the Scherzo, a beautifully shaded approach to the third movement's big climax, and unflagging energy in the finale.

A thoughtful but not over-romanticised account of Gershwin's Prelude no 2 was the aptly judged encore.

Copyright © 5 March 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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