Paul Lewis reviewed in the New York Times

Paul Lewis recently performed in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If Paul could perform this well after dealing with the Icelandic volcano, Australian audiences are surely in for a treat.

Allan Kozinn writes:

“The English pianist Paul Lewis faced the same travel problems as other Europeans who were grounded because of ash from the volcano in Iceland, but he had a recital to play at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday evening, and he was determined to be here. When his flight from London to New York was canceled on Tuesday, he first considered going to Paris, but there was no guarantee that flights to New York would leave from there either. Then it turned out that he could get to New York with a connection in, of all places, Reykjavik, which was close enough to the action not to be affected.

Whatever the stresses of getting here, Mr. Lewis seemed none the worse for them. His opening work, Mozart’s Adagio in B minor (K. 540), was the picture of serenity and introspection. Like many late Mozart works, this fantasylike movement has the seemingly contradictory qualities of unpredictability and inevitability: Mozart leads you in surprising directions and leaves you with the feeling that this music could not have unfolded in any other way. Mr. Lewis’s dark hues and graceful layering underscored the Adagio’s sense of mystery, and his phrasing magnified the speechlike starts and stops that give it an almost confessional quality.

He shifted gears quickly for the assertive opening of Schumann’s Fantasy in C (Op. 17) and focused on the score’s insistent drama and tension, though not at the expense of its thoughtful moments, particularly in the slow, emotionally heightened finale. Mr. Lewis’s poise is such that he made a momentary memory slip in the second movement sound almost deliberate, as if it were a variation in the rhythm of the movement’s main theme.

Schumann composed his Fantasy as a tribute to Beethoven and dedicated it to Liszt, whose ‘Vallée d’Obermann’ Mr. Lewis played after intermission. In a way the Schumann and Liszt were mirror images: the Schumann is cloaked in showy pianism at the start but melts into a quiet soliloquy in its final pages, and the Liszt begins thoughtfully and gradually becomes a thundering display piece.

In the Mozart, Schumann and Liszt, Mr. Lewis put a premium on textural clarity. In his account of Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata (Op. 53), he adopted a gauzier sound that disguised the work’s familiar opening gestures, usually more sharply etched. It took a moment to get used to, but Mr. Lewis’s phrasing was sufficiently inventive — and at times electrifying — to overcome any doubts, and the transition from the Adagio molto to the finale had a rare magic.”

New York Times
25 April 2010

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Welcome to Musica Viva’s International Concert Season blog. Here you can follow and read more about our wonderful touring artists.

3 responses to “Paul Lewis reviewed in the New York Times”

  1. Dellbleatly says :

    Engaging read, althoug it can be argued both sides. A bit like talking love spells in the heart of a thorough paper.

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