Esteemed friend and colleague, Rae de Lisle, is Head of Piano at the University of Auckland School of Music. As she says, "we make our students write a review of one concert" (great idea). Student Cindy Xia chose a performance I gave to the piano class of Bach's 'Goldberg' variations. Here is her review.
It is not everyday that you can hear a live performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations for the very first time, and it's not everyday that you hear it up close by a world class pianist. On 29 March the piano class was honoured by a complimentary performance of the variations by Michael Houstoun. Opening with the beautifully poised and clear aria, Michael Houstoun delved into the 75-minute-strong work with incredible physical and mental prowess. It was truly incredible, effortless, immaculate playing. If anything, the sheer number of notes and the devilishly difficult features such as the hand crossings seemed to add to the flow rather than interrupt it. There are no two variations that were presented in the same way; Michael always had something to show whether it was an exchange between two voices, layering of parts or virtuoso trills. Even the endings and silences between variations had a character of their own.
Then somewhere along the journey you forget it is Michael Houstoun playing for piano students; it is Bach playing to his wife. The concluding aria was something to die for: haunting, tender yearnings for the past after a lifetime away.
I feel incredibly honoured to hear Michael Houstoun play the Goldberg Variations in piano class. It was a marvellous treat to listen, watch and feel. I'm sure everyone felt something had changed about them that day. I know I have.
(Comment: Go Cindy...I'll take it! MH)