2022/23 has been a concert season like no other at Inverurie Music, full of diverse music, new compositions, unusual ensembles and huge amounts of entertainment at every turn. It has also been a year of Gypsy Jazz, old friends, last minute replacements, multiple trombones and the Baroque melodrama cum pantomime that was Apollo’s Cabinet. The season began with the piano in the distant days of October, so it was maybe fitting that it finished with the same instrument to an enthusiastic audience at the Acorn Centre on a fair May night.
There was something strangely apt about the programme for the concert on the night when many of the continent’s TVs were tuned to events not too far away, where the gaudiest and most extravagant carnival of European musical culture descended on the fair city of Liverpool. The programme in Inverurie was no less a celebration of pan-European musical exploits, but perhaps one with less glitter, glam and kitsch where the pianist Janusz Piotrowicz entertained the public in a recital of Liszt, Schubert, Mozart and above all others, Chopin.
But it would be wrong to assume that there was no drama or spectacle in this recital. Yes, the setting was more restrained, the lights dimmer and the volume dialled down from Boom Bang-a-Bang, but this performance had its own theatricality that was a subtle addition to the smorgasbord of pianistic delicacies that were offered by Piotrowicz. This theatricality was arguably of another age, of an immaculately dressed performer in tailcoat tuxedo performing the greatest hits of both the instrument and the pianist himself, all funnelled through intense concentration and unwavering technique. Piotrowicz asked for complete silence during each half and what resulted was even more theatrical – no ripples of applause, no pithy introductions or anecdotes, just intensity, meditation and absorption. This may have been a recital from another age; it may have been from another world such was the rapt stillness that followed each piece.
There was something faintly valedictory about the recital: a lifetime’s repertoire brushed off and given a final outing, each piece like a finely wrought jewel, glittering amidst others, each having spent time in the craftsman’s hands at some point in the past. We were treated to some of the most spellbinding but enduring repertoire for the piano, Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat, Liszt’s Consolation in D flat and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C sharp minor amongst others, all sweet and finely spiced confectionery that evoked memories far beyond the concert setting. Alongside these were specially chosen moments of Schubert, Mozart and Scarlatti, presumably firm favourites of Piotrowicz from a generation of performance. But there were more unusual selections as well, Liszt’s ‘Funérailles’ from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses and Rachmaninoff’s much less-heralded Prelude in G sharp minor showing a more studied, intimate side to the performer.
But really this was a recital about one composer, the towering behemoth of romantic piano music Frederic Chopin. As well as the opening nocturne, Piotrowicz interspersed two more pieces of night music, three mazurkas, two preludes, a waltz, a polonaise and a lullaby in this exploration of everything pianistic. In fact, Chopin seemed to colour everything in the recital, from the joie de vivre of Mozart to the mechanical intricacies of Scarlatti, all seemed to carry the romantic weight of the preeminent Polish composer of the nineteenth century. There appeared to be a natural symbiosis between composer and performer and it may have been no surprise that Piotrowicz chose to finish with the Polonaise in C minor, a work often associated with Poland’s struggles for nationhood in the age of empires.
And then there was applause. Waves of grateful appreciation for this period of rapt reflection and introspection. As the audience faded into the night, Eurovision was still hours from finishing, but the audience of Inverurie Music were left to muse on another wonderful concert to finish another wonderful season.
©Phillip A Cooke