Thanks be to saints, angels for Houstoun
Christopher's Concerts, St Michael and All Angels, Christchurch, 10 April 2012
Reviewer: Timothy Jones
The Press, 12 April 2012
Let us thank St Michael and all those angels for Chris Marshall, whose concert series continues to bring such delights to our city.
Michael Houstoun needs no introduction and, as so often in the past, he could be relied on to produce a programme of real substance.
It had only two works but what works they were: first Six Tone Clock Pieces by Jenny McLeod and then the complete Goldberg Variations of JS Bach. If these had anything in common at all it was the need for a firm hand on the musical tiller. In either piece a lack of direction or a feeling we did not quite know where we were heading, or why, would have been disastrous.
The McLeod work, completed last year, was a delight with its endless happy phrases and arresting twists and turns. I am not sure the vaguely prorammatic titles of the movements added much, as this was pure and abstract music of the finest sort. Houstoun's committed interpretation and refined playing demanded our attention.
The Goldberg Variations provided further proof of Houstoun's expressive power. More than an hour of music was played with barely a pause and with a magnificent sureness.
The variations in mood and power were extraordinary, while the balance between contrapuntal voices and the contrasts between variations were both sublime; none more so than the jumping on the brake pedal that occurred after the monumental Quodlibet. The return to the centrality and stillness of the original aria was magical.