'Something dark and tormented'.
PIANIST Louis Schwizgebel likes to programme recitals which have dramatic or thematic links, and he told International Piano magazine ahead of his Huddersfield Music Society recital that the second half of his programme "has a dark and tormented mood with Beethoven's 32 Variations and Schubert's D958 Sonata united by their C minor tonality".
He repeats the Beethoven and Schubert - plus Schumann's Kinderszenen which opened his Huddersfield recital - at the Lucerne Festival and in the International Piano Series in London in a few weeks time. Through the quality of its performers and the concertpromoting company it keeps, there can be no doubt that Huddersfield Music Society is a major chamber music provider.
Let us treasure it.
Schwizgebel, who will be 29 in two weeks time, won Second Prize at the 2012 Leeds International Piano Competition, where he was noted for his "poetry and insight" (The Guardian), to which I would add that he has a profound ability to communicate the inner life of a work. The legendary Dame Fanny Waterman, founder of the Leeds Competition, was in Schwizgebel's Huddersfield audience.
His Kinderszenen were tender childhood images, never sentimental, viewed by a thoughtful adult looking back via the medium of mature music. He paired Kinderszenen with Chopin's Second and Third Ballades. The Second, dedicated to Schumann, was subtle and elegant, even in its turbulent middle section and coda. The charming dance-like main theme of the Third was exquisitely done and the development of its second subject's expressive modulations was even better.
Chopin was a master of ambiguity and musical sleight of hand, like Beethoven, and in the Ballades it can be difficult to hear what is there under the surface. Acute listening skills are needed to get all the hints and hidden connections. No wonder Schwizgebel is a master of this music - he loves performing magic tricks as a hobby!
Beethoven's 32 Variations were intense and explosive, Beethoven at his most extrovert. But still Schwizgebel found introspection in this astonishingly concentrated work without losing any of its range of tonal colours.
The theme Beethoven composed for his Variations inspired the opening of Schubert's D958 Sonata. Schwizgebel has an extraordinary profundity in this work, written in the year Schubert died, drawing us into its inner understanding of life before its final tarantella skips inexorably towards death.