Peter Johansson (piano)
Friday 4 November 2011
Kemnay Church Centre
When does a piano sound better than just “a piano?” A good grand piano may be the equivalent of a Rolls Royce but the Boston Steinway upright at Kemnay is the equivalent of an Aston Martin. Peter Friis Johansson, one of Scandinavia’s most successful young performers, put it through an astonishing “rally tour” on Friday evening at Kemnay Church Centre as part of the Sound Festival 2011.
The “tour” began in a flourish with studies from two legendary virtuoso pianists of the Romantic era, Liszt and Rachmaninoff. The Transcendental Study, “Wilde Jagd” was immersed in the “storm and stress” of the German romantic movement. Its relentless cascading phrases contrasted well with the Rachmaninoff, where the subtle tones of the instrument demonstrated the composer’s use of the piano’s touch and resonance to impart orchestral colour and texture.
Peter explained that the next piece, Beethoven’s Sonata in A-flat major Op 110, coincided with the composer’s irreversible hearing loss. The piece certainly seems to reflect swings of mood. A cheerful stroll in the countryside perhaps is followed with loneliness and anguish. In the enigmatic Arioso a high pitched note is repeated and caressed, as though it is saying farewell for the last time. Finally, the composer confidently proves that art will triumph over adversity with a monumental fugue.
In the second half of the programme we were taken into the highways and by-ways of the 20th and 21st Centuries, beginning in Scotland with the music of Thea Musgrave (born 1928 in Midlothian). More widely known for her operas, the “Snapshots” pieces were a colourful and playful departure. We then arrived in Peter’s home country, Sweden, to be greeted with a world première of an untitled piece in three movements: “Admonition” — “Contusion” — “Child”. These were subtle and economic compositions that conveyed their moods well.
An impressionist survey of France was the last main stop. It included a prelude by Anders Nilsson entitled “Les cloches de la nuit” and in a clever shortcut of programming we were treated to the highlight of the recital, a glittering performance of three preludes from Debussy’s 1st Book (1907). Although these masterpieces, “Voiles”, “Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest” and “La Cathédrale engloutie” are now over a hundred years old, they sounded as fresh and colourful in Peter’s hands as if they were composed yesterday. The pieces were played entirely from memory and the absorption of the performer was physically apparent. The zest of interpretation, attention to detail and technical proficiency, particularly with the pedals, added up to a compelling and stunning performance.
The final piece by Mikael Edlund, “Cadenza from The Last Jugglery” (1978) was as throw away as the title suggests and it had us gripping our seats with the pace. It ended with a resounding forearm crash! Had he been there, even Jeremy Clarkson for once, might not have known what to say.
Inverurie Music is grateful for the generous sponsorship of this concert from Maitland Mackie and acknowledges the support of Enterprise Music Scotland and the Sound Festival. The next concert will be Ben Kearsley — classical guitar on Friday, 17th February, 2012 at Kemnay Church Centre, AB51 5QD at 8pm. This concert is in association with the North East Scotland Classical Guitar Society.