Mark Viner at St Mary’s
An astonishing display of virtuosity,scholarship and musicianship by Mark Viner in the musical mecca of Dr Hugh Mather who has long been a promoter of this quite unique figure that has appeared on the musical horizon.
Since his debut at the Wigmore Hall promoted by the Keyboard Trust his numerous CD’s
of a repertoire that was long forgotten except for a few passionately courageous advocates has been acclaimed by the most discerning of critics.
With so many successful performances to his name it was typical of his probing mind to present a completely new programme of his extraordinary discoveries in Perivale.
Of course the first piece hardly needed any introduction as it was the so called “Moonlight” Sonata op 27 n.2 by Beethoven.
A scrupulously refreshing look at a score so well known to so many.
Even the Allegretto had me re-looking at the phrasing which was adhered to with such care and attention.
The Adagio played at just the right tempo that allowed the melodic line to flow without any exaggerations.
”Moonlight” was certainly not Beethoven’s idea and the idea of a slow dreamy piece was far from Beethoven’s most revolutionary mind.
A great sense of forward propulsion in the Presto was helped by his attention to the bass.
A change of programme had brought in place of the Schumann Fantasy the Fantasy by Thalberg on themes from Lucrezia Borgia.
This almost unknown fantasy was by far the happier choice and gave us a chance for this most eclectic of pianists to show us one of his most recent additions to his repertoire.
Amazingly learnt for this occasion in only three weeks it showed off all his extraordinary virtuosity and subtle sense of colour.
He made the piano sound like the truly”Grand”piano that it was in the hands of Liszt`s greatest rival.
A quite astonishing display of virtuosity thrown off with all the ease of the great pianists of a bygone age.
But this was just the prelude to the Grande Sonata op.33 “Les quatre ages” by the elusive figure that is Charles-Valentin Alkan.
A remarkable work lasting forty minutes and divided into four movements depicting 20/30/40/50 years.
Introduced so eloquently by this young man who is a passionate advocate of this legendary figure.
Alkan first appeared on the programmes of Raymond Lewenthal who took London by storm with his programmes of Liszt and Alkan.
It was then taken up by Ronald Smith who made many recordings and wrote books about Alkan.
In recent times it has been Marc-Andre Hamelin who has kept the flame going but it has fallen very much on Mark Viner’s shoulders to delve even deeper into this fascinating character and his times.
Winner of the International Alkan -Zimmerman Competition in Athens , chairman of the Alkan Society in the UK and with a superb CD of Alkan’s studies op.35 enthusiastically reviewed who better to lead us into the fray!
Looking at the score after the concert one can see why it has not been a regular part of the repertoire.
It is of extraordinary difficulty and ungrateful looking on the page.
But translated into sound by this passionate and highly gifted young musician one wonders why and how it could have been ignored for so long.
“Everything about Alkan is strange;his life,his death,his music and its fate during his life and after his death”thus writes Raymond Lewenthal who took London by storm in the 60`s but like Busoni or Petri before him it was a momentary not permanent thing.
Chopin and Liszt both frequented Alkan`s concerts.When Chopin died most of his pupils went over to Alkan.His son Elie Miriam Delaborde taught at the Paris Conservatoire.
A complete excentric like his father but he could count Olga Samaroff Stokowski as one of his pupils, but for some inexplicable reason he never played his father`s large works in public.
The Sonata op 33 is a very long work that hopefully Mark Viner will add to his CD repertoire before long.
Delving into the score afterwards one could appreciate the amount of work that has gone into preparing it for public performance.Fingerings scrupulously added with a scientific like eye.But also the ingenious construction of the piece allied to the over all picture- leit motif- of “Le quatre ages”