Pilgrimage Opus 111
Friday 31 May
Stephen did not need to introduce the music, as his detailed notes on the programme gave all the relevant information, including Liszt's choice of poetry (mostly Byron) to reflect the mood of each piece. The most exciting of all was 'Orage' (Storm), which was a mighty tempest indeed. The subsequent 'Eclogue' was a peaceful and pastoral as the storm was wild. Even gentler was 'Le Mal du Pays' (Homesickness), evoking Liszt's yearning for his homeland. Finally ' Les Cloches de Genève' (The Bells of Geneva) introduced the theme of tolling bells which would feature in the second half of the concert.
While Stephen retired to the vestry once more, the audience members marveled at the spectacular nature of the recital they had just heard and wondered where Stephen would be taking them next.
The theme of bells was also extended in Pärt's use of 'tintinabuli', a style he invented himself specifically for this piece - and used again in 'Spiegel im Spiegel' for piano and violin, which Stephen performed two years ago with Jonathan Storer, on 26 May 2017.
The 'main course' of Friday's concert was Stephen's reprise of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No 32, Opus 111, which can be heard on Stephen's album CD 'In Karlsruhe'. This powerful performance showed off Stephen's versatility and skill to the full. The opening 'Maestoso' was majestic and arresting, full of exciting and thrilling themes. The 'Arietta' is initially gentle and seductive. Stephen's incredible ability to draw out different moods from the piano held the listeners transfixed, waiting to hear where the music would take them next.
After the concert audience members were generous in their praise of Stephen's playing, congratulating him and encouraging him to talk more about the wonderful music he had been playing. More importantly, when would Stephen be in concert again? Watch this space for details!