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Compelling Performance

Members of Psappha at the Buxton Festival,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Alongside the headline events the Buxton Festival produces some real nuggets in its lunchtime concerts, too. On this occasion (Palace Hotel, Buxton, Derbyshire, UK, 28 July 2009) it was a sequence of music for two pianos and percussion, played by four members of Psappha -- pianists Richard Casey and Ian Buckle, and percussionists Tim Williams and John Melbourne.

Packing a lot of hardware onto quite a small stage, they launched with panache into John Melbourne's version of Gershwin's An American in Paris. Generally highly effective, this is not so much a reduction of the orchestral score as an expansion of Gershwin's two-piano version. It did tend to draw attention to the work's sectional nature, and the big, bluesy tune really does need more sustained tone to sweep it along. But the playing was full of lively detail and was alert to the music's changes of mood.

Bartók's Sonata for two pianos and percussion was given a fine, compelling performance. There was a real sense of expectation and forward movement in the slow introduction, while in the main body of the movement the players judged nicely the balance between pounding energy and moments of stillness.

There was a strong feel for atmosphere in the second movement, and a fiery, boisterous account of the finale.

The concert began with Richard Casey and Ian Buckle capturing the delicacy and finesse of three movements from Ravel's Mother Goose, ending with a magical but (very important, this) completely unsentimental flowering of the Fairy Garden.

Copyright © 6 August 2009 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK










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