Michael Houstoun
Michael Houstoun - Reviews

Glittering performance

Beethoven Sonatas Programme One
Municipal Theatre, Napier, Sunday March 10
Reviewed by Peter Williams, Hawkes Bay Today 13/3/2013

Many in the audience at this concert will remember Michael Houstoun's playing of the Beethoven Series 20 years ago and will have been keenly anticipating these ReCycle performances. They will surely not have been disappointed in what they heard in this concert, the first of seven to be played in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, besides Napier, and a selection of two of the concerts in each of six other centres.

An especially remembered highlight of 20 years ago was the playing of the famous Waldstein Sonata Op.53 in C. It will surely be remembered particularly again this time. At the end the audience was immediately on its feet with rapturous applause following a glittering performance. The dynamic contrasts achieved were all in place, the intricate detail of the score all crystal clear, the technical mastery complete, and the intensity of expression in the brief central movement, were all features which will long remain in the memory.

The programme featured four other sonatas built around the Waldstein, a cleverly designed combination which emphasised Beethoven's genius in the development of classical sonata form.

The opening Sonata No.7 in D major, in standard classical sonata form, was notable for the way the character of each movement was so precisely projected, and particularly for the deeply sad lyricism conveyed in the *Adagio con expressione movement.

The playing of Sonata No.13 in E flat, a sonata freer in form, demonstrated skill in seamlessly moving through the sections of the opening movement and the sharp contrast achieved in the Allegro vivace Finale.

Sonata No.9 in E is frequently the successful choice of advanced piano examination students. Here was a model performance for the numerous students in the audience.

The Sonata No.12 in A flat is unique among the sonatas for its Air and Variations first movement where the myriad dynamic contrasts were all precisely in place in a beautifully balanced performance. The playing of the third movement Funeral March captured all the solemnity and dignity of the music, contrasted by the agility and clarity shown in the Rondo Finale which followed.

*sic. Largo e mesto on the score MH


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