Intense moments swirl around the eye of the storm – Paul Lewis reviewed in Sydney Morning Herald

Paul Lewis played to a large, appreciative audience on Saturday at his first Sydney concert of this tour. Many have commented on his intelligent programming, as well as his generosity in staying behind after concerts to sign CDs for over half an hour! We have it on good authority that Harmonia Mundi prioritised the release of Paul’s Beethoven Piano Concertos box set so that it would be ready in time for this tour. (If you’d like a sneak preview of this set, it is currently being featured as ABC Classic FM’s CD of the Week.) We’ve also heard that some listeners to the ABC’s direct broadcast were so taken by Paul’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata that they had to pull over in their cars so the could give their full attention to his performance.

It seems that Paul will be impressing Australian audiences throughout this tour, with this review by Peter McCallum appearing in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

“There was an elegant symmetry behind this program. The first half – Mozart’s Adagio in B minor, K. 540 and Schumann’s great Fantasie in C major, Opus 17 – moved from quiet soliloquy to high drama, from Classical form to Romantic innovation, from dark to light.

The second half repeated the dualities but with the Classical and Romantic roles reversed. It was Liszt’s turn to be morose and inward in the pianistic tone poem Valee d’Obermann and Beethoven’s to be radiant in the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata, Opus 53.

Paul Lewis is a pianist of thoughtful intelligence and in this Musica Viva recital he brought to the Adagio the ascerbic austerity and pallid intensity of the palemouthed prophet dreaming.

Although Schumann once described the Fantasie as ‘the most passionate thing I have written’, Lewis began it with a degree of discipline and reserve, giving emphasis to the quiet reflective chords to which the turbulent opening eventually subside, like the eye of the storm.

The second movement was rhythmic and tight while the third captured quiet warmth. Like Mozart’s Adagio in the first half, Vallee d’Oberrmann also portrays an excess of melancholy but here the prophet is inclined to storm.

Lewis brought an effective duality to the opening ideas (marked ‘quasi cello’ and ‘quasi oboe’ by the composer) making the first opulent and second thin, and punctuating the phrases with hand gestures as though conducting himself. At times this held back the flow and the final coda descended to became a noisy virtuosic peroration.

His approach to the Waldstein Sonata was distinctive, suppressing pulsations of the opening idea, turning the repeated notes into a kind of vibrato. Beethoven made innovative use of the sustaining pedal and Lewis reinterpreted it for today’s more reverberative instruments creating a coloured wash of sound.”


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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.

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