Sonatas rare treat in recital
Beethoven ReCycle Programme Three
Ilott Theatre, Wellington, 15 April 2013
Reviewed by John Button, The Dom Post, 17/4/2013
With this, the third concert in Michael Houstoun's year-long journey through the 32 Beethoven Sonatas, we were treated to three sonatas that rarely feature in piano recitals, and the great finger-twisting sonata from 1818 - the 'Hammerklavier' (B flat, Op.106).
The first half with the C minor (Op.10 No.1), the G major (Op.14 No.2) and the F major (Op.54), gave us playing of great poise, stylish relaxation and scintillation in the varied finales of each three works. Not only was it fine playing, but very clever programming as well, as the gap of 14 years between the Op.54 of 1804 and the Hammerklavier gave a tremendous contrast, and highlighted the many astonishing features of that great work.
Houstoun has always played this work with power and conviction, so the opening movement, the scherzo and the monumental, fugue laden, finale possessed all the power and inevitability one knew and expected. But it was the long, still Adagio - the heart of the sonata - that saw the Houstoun of today reveal, as never before, its timeless, almost mystical, poetry.
All of this sublime pianism was revealed to an uncannily quiet audience in an acoustic that was incredibly dry.
The Ilott is a dry space, but with a black sound-absorbing drape behind the piano, and the absorbent qualities of an audience, it was like listening in an anechoic chamber. It was a testament to the playing on all three nights that it didn't seem to matter, but I can't wait to hear concert four in June in the Michael Fowler Centre, which is excellent for the appreciation of a concert grand.