A Veritable Cat's Cradle

MIKE WHEELER listens to
Robert and Clara Schumann, Chopin,
Grieg and Cheryl Frances-Hoad,
played by British pianist Tom Poster


Tom Poster set up a veritable cat's cradle of composer associations and homages in his recital, ending this season's Sunday morning series in the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham - Nottingham, UK, 8 March 2020.

He began with the shifting character pieces that make up Robert Schumann's Kinderszenen, bringing out the quirkiness of 'Kuriose Geschichte', the inward moments of 'Glückes Genug', and the child's bravado of 'Ritter von Steckenpferd'. The fairy-tale imps and goblins of 'Fürchtenmachen' leapt out with alacrity, and there was a deliciously woozy quality to 'Kind in Einschlummern'.

Schumann was one of the first to hail Chopin's arrival in print, and Chopin, together with Grieg, dominated the rest of the programme. Clara Schumann's 'Nocturne', the second piece in her Soirées Musicales, Op 6, has some Chopinesque moments, but she's her own woman, Poster making a particular delight of the lilting pastoral episode. (Incidentally, Robert quoted from the piece in the last of his Op 21 Noveletten; Poster missed a trick by not including that.)

'Contemplation', which opens Book 1 of Cheryl Frances-Hoad's Homages, is a nod to Grieg, in which Grieg-ish harmonies are apt to take a jazz-like turn. As throughout, Poster handled its traceries with a finesse that in lesser hands could easily have degenerated into mannerism. Not here.

Grieg himself was represented by 'Nocturne', No 4 from his fifth book of Lyric Pieces, Op 54, laced with delicately-handled trills, and 'Study', Grieg's own homage to Chopin, from his Stimmungen, Op 73. Poster found in its bubbling energy a darker quality than we tend to associate with Grieg. So it was an ideal introduction to Chopin's Piano Sonata No 2.

In this, some melodic contours tended to be lost in the welter of sound at the start, but Poster quickly re-established his grip on the textures, while finding the necessary fevered intensity here and in the second movement, from which he drew out a demented-waltz quality, in the middle of which the trio section was disarmingly a lucid episode.

Tom Poster
Tom Poster

There was nobility in the very quiet opening to the Funeral March, which was introspective without self-indulgence. The disorienting eddies of sound in the strange finale spun and swirled to unnerving effect.

Poster's own transcription of Gershwin's 'Someone to Watch Over Me' looped neatly back to Frances-Hoad, and Grieg.

Copyright © 16 March 2020 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK







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