Julian Trevelyan at St Mary’s – Liszt restored to the pinnacle of the Romantic repertoire

Tuesday 30 November 3.00 pm

Debussy :Prélude a l’Apres-midi d’un Faune

Chopin: Barcarolle Op 60

Liszt: Sonata in B minor

Faure: Nocturne in B minor Op 119

A truly remarkable performance of the Liszt Sonata was the highlight of Julian Trevelyan’s recital at St Mary’s .


I have heard him give extraordinary performances of the Hammerklavier Sonata and the Diabelli variations.But it is the Liszt Sonata today that will remain for a long time in my memory not only for it’s Arrau type control but also for his scrupulous attention to Liszt’s detailed instructions.
How often they are ignored by fine pianists as tradition takes over from intelligence and real musicianship sacrificed to passionate fervour and showmanship.
The simple staccato B that ends this one movement masterpiece was the same simple staccato note that had opened the gate to this vast range of emotions and revolutionary transformation of themes that was to be the inspiration later for Liszt’s son in law Richard Wagner.There was a remarkably musicianly opening with a clarity and scrupulous attention to detail .A sumptuous full sound in the first big climax that was immediately diffused and where the silences too had great emotional significance.There was the devilish left hand motif of such menace leading to the beauty of the ‘Marguerite’ melody played with great shape and style.

A highly controlled performance where any slight blemishes were of no significance in a performance of such noble vision,The opening of the slow movement where the hands were slightly out of sinc as he strove to find the right colours in the magically atmospheric chords.The passionate central climax was played with superb control and a wonderful balance between the hands.The anchor very much in the bass giving an aristocratic control and an ‘Arrau’ sense of weight of notes pregnant with significance.There was a stillness in the long falling passages above radiant left hand chords leading to the clarity and absolute precision of the fugato.The treacherous octaves at the end were played with enviable clarity and control as the sonata unwound to its inevitable celestial conclusion.


Already from the opening of the Debussy ‘Prélude a l’Apres-midi’ there was extreme delicacy with washes of colour and a wonderfully rich orchestral sense of colour adding such atmosphere with the refined detail he gave to the different instrumentation.


A Barcarolle that suffered a little from too much water and at one point risked sinking altogether!But it was played with a wonderful sense of melody with Chopin’s magical golden line shining through with such colour and sensitivity.A gentle opening with a wonderful lilt to the gentle lapping of waves that created the base for this continuous outpouring of song.I was not convinced by the non legato/staccato embellishments that sounded suddenly too contrived and pianistic but it was a momentary lapse in an overall performance of great warmth and love.There was a moment too in the transition that sounded nit a little laboured and could have been more simply,opening the door as it does to one of the most magical moments that Chopin has ever created.It was the moment that had Perlemuter exclaiming that this was paradise.Julian at a certain point though looked rather tense with shoulders high and I wonder if all his energy had been directed to the Liszt and poor Chopin had been given poor shrift in its preparation this time!


The Fauré Nocturne in B minor op 119 was one of Fauré’s last works written when he was in his nineties and hard of hearing.But like Beethoven,Fauré could hear wondrous sounds in his head that he was able to share with posterity on the printed page.Written in 1921, three years before Fauré s death, the tragic despair of the Thirteenth Nocturne shares its depth of feeling with few other works in the piano repertoire. Certainly nothing like this was written by Debussy or Ravel, and only in the last pages of Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart or Bach can parallels be found to its austere heartbreak and it should be regarded as deeply autobiographical.The 13th nocturne has long been considered a secret masterpiece by Perlemuter ,Horowitz and many other great musicians.
It showed off all the remarkable facets of Julian’s artistry:intelligence,transcendental control of balance and colour together with the passionate commitment of an artist who has a burning desire to share his musical discoveries with others.An encore of the Intermezzo in C op 119 by Brahms was played with the same consumate ease and style that I remember from the hands of Clifford Curzon

Dr Hugh Mather :’It was a truly remarkable recital indeed by a very special pianistic talent.’Here is the link https://youtu.be/bzfgIJXv8HM

Julian Trevelyan is a British pianist and performs regularly throughout Europe and the UK.  Performances in the 2019/20 season have included Prokofiev’s fifth piano concerto with the Russian State Academy Symphony Orchestra, Howard Blake piano concerto and Brahms’ first piano concerto in the UK.  He gave the first Russian performance of the Concertino for piano and orchestra by Lucas Debargue in the Zaryadye Hall in Moscow in December 2018.  His solo recitals have included performances of Beethoven’s Diabelli variations in London, Munich, Paris,  and Switzerland. Over the past four years, Julian has studied piano with Rena Shereshevskaya at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris.  Since 2018 he has also been studying Musicology at Oxford University.  He composes, regularly performs chamber music on piano, violin and viola, and sings with an acappella group in Oxford. Since the pandemic eased In the summer of 2020 he has taken part in the Vienna Summer School of the International Piano Foundation Theo and Petra Lieven of Hamburg, and has been able to return to France to give a number of solo recitals.

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2019/03/27/julian-trevelyan-plays-the-diabelli-variations-at-st-marys/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/julian-trevelyan-at-st-marys/

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