Tuesday May 11th 4.00 pm
Ronan Magill (piano)
Scarlatti: Sonata in E major K162
Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C# Major BWV 848
Beethoven: Sonata in E Op 109
Chopin: Mazurka in A minor Op 17 no 4
Liszt: ‘Vallée d’Obermann’
from Années de Pèlerinage: Suisse
What an afternoon ……..always surprises at St Mary’s and this afternoon to hear such masterly playing and hear such eloquence from a pianist …musician three times the age of the usual performers who only an extravagant past has kept him from our shores.
Now returned with playing of rare musicianship helped by a true finger legato ,so rare these days ,that allowed a rare depth of sound and profundity on Dr Mather’s fine Yamaha piano.In Dr Mather’s own words he made the piano sound like a piano of the great German tradition.
The contrasts he immediately brought to the opening Scarlatti Sonata where subtle shading ,delicacy and exhilaration all lived together in a basket of jewels that glistened and shone in his magnificent hands.
Even Bach’s C sharp major prelude was played with a jeux perlé touch that contrasted so well with the militaristic fugue.
It is in late Beethoven that men are sorted from the boys.And as Ronan himself said in his very informative introduction that having learnt the sonata when he was 19 ,at 67 he is still making new discoveries in it.
It was just this freshness of discovery that came over with such a powerful personality.From the mellifluous opening with it’s astonishing interruptions to the superb energy and quite considerable technical command of the second movement.It was in the last movement though that he managed to bring such depth of meaning with such clarity and richness of sound .The first variation already sang with a voice of such penetrating clarity without ever hardening the sound by a careful sense of balance and mature musicianship that can understand Beethoven’s true meaning .The non legato second variation that delicately dissolves into melody leading to the transcendental eruption of the third with playing of such enviable technical assurance.There was a gradual entry into the miraculous final variation where the melodic line rose above the cloud on which Beethoven places it before dissolving and returning ,full circle ,to the opening theme.This time played with even more intensity until the final chord was allowed so poignantly to add its final farewell.
As Dr Mather rightly said it was a truly profound Beethoven of a simplicity that comes from maturity and true technical mastery.
Not only was there great playing but the same profound simplicity he brought to his introductions of Chopin and Liszt.A Mazurka of ‘hope and despair’where his slight hesitation in the return of the opening theme was quite breathtaking.
His command of Liszt’s ‘introspective emotions’ in the Vallée d’Obermann was indeed overwhelming.The beauty and drama he brought to this great tone poem showed his transcendental command of the keyboard .From the opening profound rhetoric to the beseeching choir of angels through the great personality of the middle recitativo.Finally he threw all caution to the wind as he allowed the music to build in tension without any regard for the quite considerable technical difficulty.We were swept along on a great wave of passionate outpouring where Liszt’s treacherous octaves in both hands were never allowed to waver as the tempo seemed to get even more agitated.The final great rhetorical statement was played with all the dramatic emphasis of an operatic performance.
Hats off to Dr Mather and above all to Ronan Magill for a memorable afternoon .
The pianist and composer RONAN MAGILL (born Sheffield 1954) was, as a nine year old, chosen to be one of the founder pupils of the Yehudi Menuhin School. Later after a period at Ampleforth College, and on the advice of Benjamin Britten, he went to the Royal College of Music working with David Parkhouse and later John Barstow, and winning all the major prizes for piano and composition. After his Wigmore and South Bank debuts (Brahms 2 nd Concerto) in 1974, and again on Britten’s advice, he moved to Paris to study with Yvonne Lefebure at the Conservatoire, and then remained in Paris for a number of years, performing regularly both in concert and on TV and radio, and also receiving advice from Pierre Sancan, and Nikita Magaloff and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli in Switzerland. In 1985 Magill won ist Prize in the 1 st “Milosz Magin” International Competition for Polish Music, followed by a European tour, and then after returning to the UK , he won the 3rd British Contemporary Piano Competition which a UK tour and concerts on BBC Radio 3. In recent years Magill has been performing in the UK, USA (Rachmaninoff 3 rd Concerto) and most recently in Japan where he has been living since 2013 performing in many cities.