Houston's (sic) virtuosity mesmerises at St Paul's
Lunchtime recital at Otago Festival of the Arts
Reviewer: Nigel Benson
Otago Daily Times, 14 October, 2010
It would be fair to say I am probably not pianist Michael Houstoun's biggest fan. During an interview with Houstoun at St Paul's Cathedral a couple of years ago I played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the grand piano. Then I said something like "Now I can say Michael Houstoun has followed me on the piano". Well, actually, that's exactly what I said. Houstoun was rather unimpressed with that. Although I am not sure whether it was my irreverence or piano-playing which got under his skin. In fact, he was so unimpressed that he did not want a lift back to his hotel with the ODT photographer and myself afterwards, leaving him with a bit of a walk, as we had picked him up from the hotel for the interview.
But to see the maestro in action in St Paul's yesterday was absolutely mesmerising. Houstoun's fingers floated over the piano keys like butterflies one second and attacked them like locusts the next. The hour-long recital was a journey through international jazz, featuring works by Ukrainian Nikolai Kapustin, Austrian Friedrich Gulda and American George Antheil. To see and hear a piano used like that was a real privilege.
(Comment: Eerily I have no recall of having heard Mr Benson play the piano. I do remember though the smug self-satisfied way he lolled back in his chair expecting me to feed him his copy. A lazy journalist has a particular odour and Mr Benson was pretty high. I'm inclined in those circumstances to give as good as I get - that is, next to nothing. Needless to say Mr Benson took a swipe at me in the paper the next day. Must have hit a nerve though if he is still reheating his story four years down the track. With regard to this recital I clearly had Mr Benson so mesmerised that he didn't realise that I did not play anything by George Antheil. Perhaps he didn't bother to get a programme...laziness and carelessness often go hand-in-hand. MH)