Michael Houstoun
Michael Houstoun - Reviews


By Stephen Fisher, Manawatu Standard

Seemingly only yesterday Michael Houstoun thrilled audiences throughout New Zealand with his stunning performances of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas and now, two decades later, Houstoun has returned to these works, considered by many to be at the very heart of piano literature, providing fresh insight and undoubted maturity.

The Moonlight programme included sonatas No 4, 14,15 and 31, composed between 1796 and 1822 and together they clearly showed the development of Beethoven as a composer and performer - he was, after all, primarily a pianist. The continuing inventiveness of the works is undeniable, along with their developing symphonic nature, all superbly amplified in this studied performance by Houstoun.

From the outset, Houstoun was obviously deeply committed both to the music and his performance. No 4 opened the programme, a lengthy and challenging work but, here given an almost restrained reading as Houstoun superbly explored the expressive depths of the work for an obviously appreciative audience.

It was during Houstoun's performance of the Moonlight Sonata that the unthinkable happened. The very popular first movement was given an outstanding performance full of obvious insight, while the second movement, a little lighter in nature, enhanced out admiration. However, the restless third movement was brought to a sudden halt as a photographer from the audience, disturbed the performance.

I have no doubt that any performer as deeply committed to his music as Houstoun obviously was, deserves to feel confident that his performance space is secure, and free of distraction. This was not the case last night and Houstoun, obviously upset and rightly so, in my opinion, left the stage.

He returned after the interval to provide simply marvellous performances of the remaining works in the programme providing an evening that, while it had made huge demands both technically and emotionally on the performer, simply provided ample evidence as to why he is one of our living treasures.

(Comment: For more on the 'unthinkable' incident click here. MH)


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