Remarkable Rye-cital

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The inaugural concert of the Euphonia Studio’s Rye-cital series was held at the Rye Creative Centre on Sunday February 26. Alasdair Kitchen, renowned in Rye and beyond as founder, director and conductor of Euphonia, gave a piano recital of some of his favourite works, these being by four of the greatest of all composers.

A poetic and moving account of Mozart’s Fantasia in C minor K.475, which revealed from the start the player’s powers of interpretation, preceded Haydn’s Sonata in E flat Hob. XVI: 49. This work’s genial opening was soon developed by the soloist, in line with Haydn’s intentions, into a magnificently expressive and powerful tragic statement, centred on the deeply emotional central slow movement, before returning to some kind of tranquil liveliness in the finale. This was a memorable performance of a great and too-little-known composition.

After a short interval, Beethoven’s remarkably modern-sounding Bagatelles Opus 126 were played with a sensitive awareness of how these enigmatic and powerful pieces should be paced and varied. Kitchen, who was returning here to his first love, the piano, concluded with the second and fourth impromptus from Schubert’s Opus 90 set, the first of these vivid in its beauty and precision and the second providing an uplifting conclusion to a splendid recital, played in the candlelit atmosphere in which these works must first have been heard.

It is said that when he was very old, Sibelius was visited by the pianist Wilhelm Kempff, who played some Beethoven for the old man. When Kempff asked the composer if he had liked the music, Sibelius replied that he had and that Kempff had played not like a pianist but like a human being. Kitchen’s playing might be described in the same way.

Too few people heard this inspired concert and it is to be hoped that the next of the series has a much bigger audience. On March 20 at 3:30pm in the Rye Creative Centre, Kitchen will accompany William Wallace (tenor), who was a memorably sinister Quint in Euphonia’s 2016 Rye Arts Festival  Turn of the Screw, in A Concert of English Song. As I was once told in my teens: be there or be square.

Photo: Kenneth Bird

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