Sunday 24 September 2017

Classical music: Paul Lewis at the National Concert Hall

Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis

Pat O'Kelly

English pianist Paul Lewis is back in Dublin this week as part of the NCH's International Concert Series.

Not surprisingly his programme is devoted to Beethoven, as the pianist, despite his relative youth, is noted for his Beethoven interpretations.

Here he presents the last three sonatas dating from 1820/22 and glides unceremoniously into the E flat Op 109 with the adagio episodes of its opening movement floating with graceful ease. But neither is Lewis' aggression in Beethoven's vivace sections misplaced.

The theme of the finale is like a sad sarabande, which Lewis sympathetically embraces. The ensuing variations develop with demanding virtuosity before the hymn-like theme is restated in all its quiet simplicity showing Lewis to be the master of his art.

The A flat Op 110 finds him no less impressive as he gives Beethoven's cantabile unhindered flow. In the short middle movement allegro, brusque opening remarks are answered by more genial comments.

Beethoven called his finale a Song of Lament and Lewis certainly points to its funereal grandeur. Mixing fugue with arioso dolente it looks back to Bach and forward to Brahms and there is wonderful clarity in Lewis' playing as beacons of light dispel the sepulchral gloom and reach a radiant dénouement.

The C minor Op 111 Sonata is the evening's pièce de résistance with its two movements contrasted against and within each other. Lewis catches the music's turbulence and serenity with unusual insight.

Playing with utmost tenderness, he slips gently into the finale's arietta before launching into the variations of this strangely earthy and ethereal movement.

At times he may lapse into introspective musing but Lewis still allows Beethoven to be delicately, as well as forcefully, expressed.

Irish Independent

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