"Box of Delights"
Saturday 21 December
On Saturday afternoon, as Storm Elsa drenched the streets of Exeter, South Street Baptist Church offered a welcome refuge - and inside, Stephen Beville provided a spectacular piano recital.
Stephen had prepared a selection of music he called his "Box of Delights". Over two hours the audience enjoyed Mozart's Sonata in A major, with its distinctive closing rondo in the style of Turkish zanissary bands, eight intricate nocturnes by Francis Poulenc, Beethoven's stand-alone piano movement "Andante Favouri" and three waltzes and a polonaise by Chopin.
The opening Mozart was controlled and precise, with sudden injections of power creating a world of contrasting moods. The minuet introduced complex trills and the spirit of the vivacious 28 year old Mozart shone through in Stephen's playing. The final Turkish rondo was feverish, exhilarating, and great fun - like a very well coordinated fireworks display.
With Poulenc's nocturnes Stephen demonstrated a variety of moods and styles from restful and languorous to strident and filled with vigour. Some portrayed specific images - lightly skipping girls at a ball, solemnly tolling bells, an eerie phantom and delicately fluttering moths.
Stephen kept the energy and enthusiasm of Poulenc's inventiveness and imagination alive with each successive piece, finally wrapping up the story with the reflective and clarifying coda. An engaging musical journey.
Many thanks to the Church Warden for teas and coffees in the interval and, as promised, every flavour of Turkish delight - to reflect that Turkish rondo that was so enjoyable in the first half.
Stephen recreated the musical atmosphere after the break with Beethoven's Andante. Each phrase seemed to build into a dance, full of energy and excitement. This lovely piece was the perfect precursor to Stephen's virtuoso finale - the music of Frédéric Chopin.
The first two of his waltzes were in turn intricate and sparkling, then smooth and melodious. The last was amazingly virtuosic with endless showers of elaborate trills. Stephen performed it perfectly, and was clearly in his element. The polonaise opened in grand style and seemed to involve an endless succession of complex and inventive musical ideas. Stephen conveyed the perfect combination of frenzy and control thoughout. "Box of Delights" was a perfect description!
Stephen Beville creates a dazzling impression every time he plays. His performances are full of thrilling showmanship, delivered with impressive skill. More recitals will follow before long and, in the meantime, Stephen is working on new recording projects. He is working on a new Beethoven CD, and will also be releasing recordings of his own compositions later in the year. As the date of publication approaches, Stephen will be discussing his work on Phonic FM.
We can hear his flamboyant exposition of Beethoven - plus Chopin, Schumann and Boulez - on his 2012 album "In Karlsruhe", which is available from the Stephen Beville Website.
Thank you Stephen for another rousing recital of piano wonders. - Until next time!