A knight in shining armour Drew Steanson at Farm Street Church

A knight in shining armour Drew Steanson at Farm Street Church
There was magic in the air for a programme of Medtner,Rachmaninov and Scriabin in the first recital in a collaboration between The Keyboard Trust and Bobby Chen for Farm Street Jesuit Church 0f the Immaculate Conception .The most beautiful of churches in the heart of Mayfair with Pugin’s magnificent High altar looking on to all those that enter.
AWN Pugin ,the eminent Victorian architect also designed the interiors of the Houses of Parliament.
The second recital in this series will be on the 7th December with Bocheng Wang playing Chopin Preludes op 28 and the Bach Busoni Prelude “Wachet auf,ruft uns die Stimme”
At last today  a Medtner that made sense as the sheer beauty of sounds wafted into the church under the persuasive hands of this British Australian pianist.
Remarkable to appreciate such mastery from someone who had started piano lessons only 12 years ago.
He finished his degree at the Guildhall under Philip Jenkins and went on to study at Trinity Laban under Peter Tuite and Sergio De Simone.
He is now completing his studies with Alessandra Brustia in Bolzano Conservatory.
Having recently been a finalist in the first International Nikolai Medtner Competition in St Petersburg it was hardly surprising that he presented an all Russian programme with Medtner taking pride of place.
Gone was the barnstorming piano playing that one is all too often offered in this repertoire but here it was replaced with music full of poetry and wondrous sounds.
A pianist that could conjure magic sounds that could fill every crevace and seduce us in this beautifully imposing edifice.
It was clear that from the very first piece, the Elegie op 59 n.1 ,that we were in the hands of a true musician.
The whole piano seemed to be illuminated by such liquid sounds helped by the acoustic but also by a careful attention to balance and sumptuous bass reminiscent of the great russian pianists of the past like Emil Gilels whose 103rd birthday it would have been today.

Drew presenting the programme today
In Drew’s hands the line was so clearly drawn that the similarity with Rachmaninov and Scriabin became so apparent as is very rarely the case in lesser hands.
Rachmaninov had in fact dedicated his 4th Piano concerto to Medtner as Medtner had dedicated his 2nd and 3rd concertos to Rachmaninov.
I have often described Medtner as Rachmaninov without the tunes but today that was certainly not the case as Drew managed to steer us through the maze of intricate sounds but always with a great sense of line and above all of song.
The piano seemed to glow as Medtner’s rather elusive melodic line was so clearly and sensitively chiselled.
The two little Arabesques op 7 n.1 and 2 were played like poems of Scriabin.
The first with such meltingly liquid sounds reminiscent of the sounds of that great magician Horowitz for whom this music seemed to pour out of his soul like some golden lava whose trail he traced with such devout delicacy and passion.
The insistent rhythmic pattern in the second one was beautifully maintained with a sumptuous passionate climax and a great final flourish thrown off with such delicacy and leaving a very impressive peaceful ending.
A great calm descended on this magnificent edifice with Rachmaninov’s simple Ave Maria op 37 n.6.
A beautifully simple melody that was allowed to sing with such subtle colours.
This little known work was added to the programme to mirror the reflection that had been offered to the public by the presiding priest.
The few meaningful words offered had been the ideal opening for the sumptuous music we were about to receive.
This short programme continued with 3 Moments Musicaux op 16.Written in 1896 when Rachmaninov had urgent need of money having had his stolen on the train.
Already they show the charcteristics of the later Rachmaninov .The second a study with great arches of sound and cascades of notes with a passionate sense of forward movement.Some really sumptuous sounds in the passionate outpouring which contrasted with the first.
A theme and variations played with a beautifully shaped melodic line thanks to Drew’s great sense of balance allied to a kaleidoscopic sense of colour.
The cascades of notes thrown off with great delicacy and ease led to the final peaceful chords being placed so perfectly.
The third Moment is a great elegie of nostalgic melancholy where the full chords were never harsh but pregnant with meaning.
The march in the left hand with the right hand legato was extremely effective after this typical Rachmaninov lament.
The two fairy tales op.34 n.2 and 4 were made to speak so eloquently too.
The swirling of the water around the lake in the first one was magically played.
And the story telling of the knight in the second was worthy of the greatest of story tellers.
It was quite exquisitely played where every note seemed to be speaking with so much meaning.
The Scriabin study op 42 n.4 offered as an encore revealed yet again a real poet of the piano as it opened up a true world of fantasy played with quite exceptional musicality and command of the keyboard.

Drew with a guest after the concert

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