Kawai Piano Series 1 | Timothy Young Plays Lizst
Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, February 24, 2021
It was a pleasant surprise to hear a recital with an audience, albeit a socially distanced one.
Timothy Young is head of the Australian Academy of Music. He studied at Melbourne University and then in Europe where the high point of his career was being awarded a Diploma with a rarely awarded Distinction from the Paganini Conservatorium in Genoa.
In this concert we were treated to an all-Lizst recital – a beautifully constructed programme to show the composer and the artist’s virtuosity.
The Mephisto waltz number 1 is frequently played and Timothy performed it with panache and suitable devilishness. Full of repeated notes, glissandos and hardly recognisable as being in Waltz time, the word “devil“ could also be applied to the technique required but there was no sign of this here. Dante’s Sonata/Fantasia is also familiar to many and demonstrates the frequent changes in mood and pace that characterises Liszt. It’s interesting that both these works feature repeated two note figures near the end producing sublime melodies.
The one rarely heard work was Nuages Gris, unusual in that it is very contemplative without a dramatic section describing as it does the grey clouds of a grey day. Even so, one could detect the composer’s nuances and an enjoyable prelude to the major piece to follow. The story is told that Liszt invited Brahms to his house for dinner and to hear his new Sonata. As he finished playing, he turned and said, “What do you think Johannes?” but Brahms, perhaps over-replete, was fast asleep! A few years ago, I was lucky enough to hear his Sonata in B minor four times in a day at the Southern Highlands Piano Competition but I was intrigued by the variations in interpretation and not at all sleepy. The work is surprisingly in fairly strict Sonata form but in one movement. Three themes are expressed forcefully and are developed separately and sometimes intermixed while a quieter theme, reminiscent of the composer’s Sospiro comes in before the exposition. It is no wonder that this work is so well-known and it was performed beautifully by Timothy Young, in his own style.
Timothy showed himself to be not only a brilliant soloist but also very approachable in discussion with Chris Howlett explaining how Liszt was very philanthropic not only giving his royalties to charity but also promoting other composers such as Schumann and Chopin. Under the circumstances, one hopes he never heard Clara Schumann’s uncharitable description of his Sonata, “…This is nothing but sheer racket — not a single healthy idea, everything confused, no longer a clear harmonic sequence to be detected there!”. As with many other critics, this was a reflection of its extreme difficulty.
More concerts in the Kawai Piano Series can be found on the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall website.
Melbourne Digital Concert Hall (MDCH) was created by musicians, for musicians, to support our fragile industry and connect communities everywhere through live music. $1,000,000 was generated for Australian musicians and arts sector workers in 2020.