The similarity between Tyler Hay and Jorge Bolet does not stop only at their military bearing.It is also their transcendental playing of great clarity and beauty allied to a sensibility that belies their outward appearance.
Of course their early training gave them both the possibility to follow their own musical paths without limits.
Bolet with the school of David Stapleton and Tyler with that of Tessa Nicholson.
I do not think it a coincidence that Mark Viner ,who is fast making a great name for himself with his recordings of Thalberg,Alkan ,Chaminade and other virtuosi from a lost age, was also from the same school as is that other up and coming virtuoso Alim Beisembayev.
I heard Tyler a few months ago playing for the first time on a period instrument from the Cobbe collection at Hatchlands. https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-axworthy/tyler-hay-at-hatchlands-for-the-cobbe-collection/10156554648092309/
And a few weeks later a homage to John Ogdon, playing works from his new CD of the inedited compositions of a genius who is only now gaining recognition as a composer with the 200 or more compositions still in manuscript housed in the Royal Northern College of Music archives.
It is quite remarkable the versatily and ease with which he not only dispatches the most transcendentally difficult scores but also the beauty and style he brings to those well trodden and much loved too.
In St James’s ,one of the most intimate and inviting of all London churches, Tyler was invited by the Park Lane Group to perform works by Beethoven,Kalkbrenner and Gershwin ending with an exhilarating and liberating performance of “Kitten on the Keys” by Zez Confrey .
From the very first imposing chords of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata op 13 it was quite clear that we were in presence of a great musical personality.The aristocratic use of the silences to make each chord so much more poignant added to a most delicate sense of balance.
I would have taken a little more time over the turns before the chromatic scale that takes us into the Allegro di molto e con brio.
Played with a clarity and unrelenting forward movement even if the duet between bass and treble could have been a little more pointed and relaxed,it was this forward almost Serkin type drive that was so convincing.
The famous Adagio cantabile was indeed played on “wings of song” with such a beautiful sense of balance with a wonderful sense of legato.
He managed to keep the rhythmic flow but with a flexibility and expressiveness that never became sentimental.
Infact the flow lasted right until the final notes without any ritardando or sugary rubato.
The Rondo was played with an almost Mozartian purity and simplicity.The contrasting episodes played with an ease and sense of melodic legato,the spiky staccato breaking the spell in true Beethovenian style.
The Kalkbrenner Variations based on the B flat mazurka of Chopin I had heard from Tyler on a period instrument that lacked the luminosity and grandeur that today we were treated to on a fine modern day Fazioli concert grand.
The sheer beauty of the cantabile and the delicious fiortiore that cascaded like drops of water around the sumptuous melodic line was something to marvel at indeed.
He made the piano sound like a truly‘Grand’ piano with such a wonderfully warm and rich sonority from which emerged the Chopin mazurka as never before.
The different variations of transcendental difficulty were played with a charm and ease that was quite ravishing.
Maybe Kalkbrenner was right when he suggested that Chopin should study with him for three years to acquire a true technique!
He was after all Chopin’s favourite pianist that he dedicated his Concerto in E minor op 11 to.
Such were the thoughts that passed through my mind as I was seduced and ravished by this young man’s performance as I had been years ago by Bolet and Cherkassky.
The precision of the repeated notes in an explosion of fireworks that brought us to the conclusion was quite breathtaking.
Well now the cat was let out of the bag and the sleezy opening trill and insinuating melody at the opening of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue had an unusually full hall hanging on to every one of the magical notes that Tyler was throwing in their direction.
From the sumptuous big band sounds to the most intimate it was a continuous kaleidoscope of jewels one after the other that held us all spellbound.
Such control and infectious sense of rhythm and the added bass notes at the end were of piano playing of another era.
An ovation from an audience that had not been expecting such wondrous fun.
It led to the cat well and truly being let out of the bag with a racy performance of Zez Confrey’s 1921 classic “Kitten on the Keys.”
I doubt Art Tatum himself could have matched this and the glissandi up and down the keyboard had the audience on their feet in spontaneous admiration for this remarkable young man