Wednesday 18 October 2017

CLASSICAL

PHILIP MARTIN

NATIONAL CONCERT HALL

Always welcome on his return to his native city, Dublin-born Philip Martin (pictured) is at the National Concert Hall this week as part of its prestigious Piano Masters Series.

His programme covers quite a range of music with the classics through Mozart and Beethoven, the romantics by way of Chopin and Gottschalk and the contemporary scene with some of his own compositions.

Martin begins with one of the less familiar Mozart Sonatas – B flat K 333. There is both strength and delicacy in his playing where, initially, his gentle touch successfully realises the kind of forte-piano sound of Mozart's period. Everything is crystal clear in the light-hearted, but not lightweight, opening Allegro.

While the second movement uses material from the Allegro it is more serious in tone. Philip Martin paces it nicely and propels its momentum with a stately gait. The song-like Finale is something the maid Despina might easily render at the drop of a hat in Cosi fan tutte and Martin catches the mood of this chirpy rondo beautifully.

Beethoven is represented by his 'Moonlight' Sonata with its opening Andante having a sustained nocturnal quietude as its right-hand theme is heard over a continuously flowing triplet accompaniment. Maybe Martin's tempo is fractionally fast but, still, the music's temperate flow is undisturbed. Philip Martin rightly sees the central Allegretto through a brighter prism while his Finale is as tempestuous as Beethoven demands.

Leaving the classics behind, Martin turns to Chopin, showing his instinctive musicality in some of the Impromptus and Waltzes.

Ghostly figures haunt the former, even if the C sharp minor Fantasie-impromptu paints a more realistically grandiose picture.

Martin's own compositions here reflect his love for the American scene. In 'Visions of the Night', 'Dusk' is short while 'Midnight' has a slightly eerie feel to it.

'Dawn' is a kind of blues movement with flashes of light sparkling through its gossamer web.

'New York Nights' conjures up downtown and lower Manhattan where colour is vivid and movement is lively. Gershwin's 'American in Paris' springs to mind as master-of-the-keyboard Martin recreates the bustle of the city that never sleeps.

Four pieces by Louis Moreau Gottschalk end the recital with embellished brilliance.

Mind you, both 'Melody' and 'Solitude' have a Chopinesque expression but 'Le Bananier' and 'Le Banjo' are more potently extrovert and Philip Martin's assertive playing trips lightly and assuredly across Gottschalk's virtuoso tours de force.

Irish Independent

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