Champagne piano from Paul Lewis- review by Steve Moffatt
Perth audiences have their chance to see Paul Lewis in concert tonight, and there are still tickets available if you haven’t booked yet. As well as being a fine pianist, Paul is also an eloquent speaker and will participate in a Q&A session hosted by Robyn Johnston after tonight’s concert.
“The English pianist Paul Lewis is without doubt the Beethoven specialist of his generation, which would explain why after this concert he was signing cartloads of complete sets of his must-have Harmonia Mundi recordings of the complete sonatas.
For his latest Musica Viva tour, instead of performing an all-Beethoven concert like last time, he chose four much-loved works from the German repertoire, all of them Romantic, including Mozart in an unusually sombre and introspective mood in his B minor adagio.
By way of contrast to this work, which may have been written when Mozart was grieving for his recently departed father Leopold, Lewis chose Schumann’s passionate Fantasie Op 17 as a companion piece for the first part of this recital.
Composed for his beloved Clara Wieck, whose father was opposing Schumann’s attempts to marry his daughter, this three-movement work with its memorable melodic lines showcased Lewis’s wonderful control of structure, tone and colour.
Pale and intense under his dark curly hair, Lewis has the look of a Byronic hero about him, though his stage manner is minimalist. After a short speech to say a little about each work and why he had chosen this program, it was straight to work at the keyboard – no histrionics, no unnecessary gestures, just pure, almost palpable, concentration.
As well as the glorious textures he coaxes from the keyboard, Lewis is meticulous in his pedal work, with the occasional stamp of his left foot in the stormy passages the only indication of externalised effort.
The opening work for the second half swapped the heights of Schumann’s passion for Liszt’s musical snapshot of the Swiss landscape, Obermann’s Valley from the Years of Pilgrimage series.
This is breathtaking pianism at its most virtuosic. Lewis later played another piece by Liszt for an encore – ‘but this one is shorter and easier than the one I played before,’ Lewis quipped.
Fans who wanted some of Lewis’s beloved Beethoven weren’t disappointed either with a glorious performance of the Waldstein sonata, which the French nickname the Dawn with its shifting, cloudlike shadows pierced by brilliant sunshine.”