Luke Jones at St Mary’s The virtuosity and style of a true poet of the keyboard.

Tuesday 13 September 3.00 pm

‘Phenomenal’ was how Dr Hugh Mather described Luke Jones recital as he arrived at the 30 anniversary celebrations of the Keyboard Trust at the National Liberal Club a few hours later. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2022/09/14/the-gift-of-life-the-keyboard-trust-at-30/. By coincidence Luke Jones had been invited by the Keyboard Trust to play on Ischia for the Walton Foundation.Two recitals with just one day to get from the island off Naples to Perivale.All this whilst Luke was setting up a new home in Bath with many household problems still to resolve.I had heard from Ischia of the enthusiastic audiences in his two afternoon recitals there and hearing such enthusiasm from Perivale I was very anxious to be able to enjoy the recital myself.Luckily Perivale have superb recording facilities and often I have even preferred listening in the comfort of my home in Italy.A deeply felt dedication to our beloved Queen with a minute’s silence before the concert was so delicately offered – the Queen just a few hours later would be passing by Perivale on her final journey back to London.

https://vimeo.com/748510847

A transcription by Rachmaninov of three movements from Bach’s violin Partita n. 3 opened the programme with an astonishing luminosity of sound and range of colour allied to an irresistible driving energy.There was grandeur mixed with joy in the Prelude followed by a Gavotte of delicacy and beguiling charm.A subtle flexibility that one might call rubato which was part of a long architectural line with beautiful rich counterpoints and sense of fantasy.It was followed by the busy weaving of the Gigue in a performance of mastery and style.

Ravel’s Sonatine was hauntingly beautiful as it floated on a stream of liquid sounds of ravishing beauty.A moderato of languid refined cantabile of great weight with notes sparkling like stars of such subtle brilliance.A Menuet of aristocratic poise with a nostalgic atmosphere full of magic colours with a beautiful ending of infinite sensitivity .An Animé that was a torrent of golden sounds with a superb build up to the final outburst and the mellifluous final bars.A performance of style and refined taste with a kaleidoscopic sense of colour that just added to the overall shape of this masterpiece of concision and perfection.

This is a live recording from Ischia in September 2022 https://youtu.be/XuYVFPAR7Nw

The first set of Etudes op 10 by Chopin are usually considered more brilliant and less poetic that the second op 25 .That was certainly not the case in the hands of the poet of the piano that we heard today.With the transcendental difficulties of the studies that Luke played so fearlessly it was the poetry and style he gave to the studies that made each one a jewel not only of precision but of shape and colour .Taking all the time needed to shape a phrase with loving care whilst throwing off the hair raising difficulties with an apparent ease where musical and poetic considerations were his only concern.The slow third and sixth studies were played with real aristocratic style where the music was allowed to sing out with seeming simplicity.

The third that even Chopin exclaimed :”Never in my life have I been able to find again so beautiful a melody,”was played with such good taste and style with the middle episode just growing so naturally out of the opening melodic line.There was subtle beauty to the Scriabinesque sixth study of which even Godowsky had made a magical transcription for the left hand alone of this hauntingly nostalgic melody that he added continuous arabesques to.But with Chopin’s own notes alone Luke had us hanging on to each note as he shaped the melodic line with poetic vision where there was no room for any embellishments.The simplicity and poetic beauty spoke so much more eloquently.It was the great bass melody in the first study that Luke shaped like a true musician with the cascades of notes in the right hand just accompanying the majestic outpouring of the melodic line.If the second could have had a little more charm – I remember Smeterlin’s unforgettable performance years ago in the Festival Hall – the silk like legato and jewel like perfection Luke gave to this study was remarkable,especially considering that like Liszt’s Feux Follets this is a study for the chosen few!

There was a rude awakening with the fourth.Rubinstein even in his 90th year would astonish us with his passionate drive,even standing up towards the end as the excitement mounted to fever pitch.Luke is a long way from Rubinstein’s veteran years but he brought the same excitement and drive with astonishing brilliance and control.There followed the so called ‘Black Key’ study (Myra Hess would astonish and amuse her audiences as she came on with an orange and two carrots to play it ).Luke with just ten fingers gave beautiful shape to the cascades of notes with a scintillating display of jeux perlé.The final octave flourish thrown off with nonchalant ease and a final note that was just the end of a long phrase not the usual triumphant bang!What a sensitive musician this young man is!There was fleeting agility in the seventh like a butterfly hovering over the keys with the beauty of the tenor melody just hinted at with such delicacy.The reams of sparkling right hand notes in the eighth were just accompanying the left hand melodic line with real artistry.The ninth study was played with a subtle rubato of great beauty where the melodic line was allowed to speak with a powerful timeless effect.Chopin’s very complicated phrasing in the tenth was translated into an outpouring of mellifluous sounds – virtuosity at the service of poetry.The arpeggio study of number eleven was almost too slow as the melodic line was allowed to sing as it unwound with such legato and fluidity with a cheeky ending just thrown off with ease before the final torrential gates were opened .The ‘Revolutionary’ study op 10 n.12 was played with passion and fire but always with a perfect sense of balance where the melodic line was shaped with an architectural shape in mind and Chopin’s contrasts were nobly presented with breathtaking audacity.Rarely have I heard a performance of these studies of such noble musicianship and poetry.It was indeed ‘phenomenal’ to quote Dr Mather and extraordinarily uplifting to hear this fine student be transformed into an artist of such poetic vision.

There was a clarity of line amidst the torrent of notes that Prokofiev fires at us from the very opening of this single movement sonata.A crack if the whip and with great athleticism but also startling character the sonata unfolds with rhythmic drive.Playful and lyrical but also demonic and dynamic.There were moments of great delicacy but always with this undercurrent of energy like water about to boil over at a hundred degrees.A remarkable display of scintillating excitement with a kaleidoscopic range of sound.Boiling point reached with breathtaking exhilaration.

Quoting Gustav Mahler :’Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire’ it describes so precisely the exhilaration and recreation that were the hallmark of Luke’s performances today

Luke Jones is a Welsh pianist. Originally from Wrexham in North Wales, he started playing the piano at the age of 5 and made his debut recital at Oriel Wrecsam aged 10. Since then he has performed all over Britain in venues such as Bridgewater Hall – Manchester, Eaton Square – London, St. David’s Hall – Cardiff, Bradshaw Hall – Birmingham, Pump Room – Bath, St. George’s – Bristol etc. He has also performed in France (Salle Cortot – Paris), Italy, Luxembourg (Philharmonie de Luxembourg), Austria (Wienersaal – Salzburg), Spain (Palau de la Musica Catalana – Barcelona), Majorca and Slovenia and has won prizes in competitions around Europe notably 2nd Prize and Mompou Prize at the prestigious Maria Canals International Piano Competition, 1st Prize at the Bromsgrove International Musicians Competition, 1st Prize in “Aci Bertoncelj” International Piano Competition, Slovenia. 1st Prize in “Section A” Chopin-Roma International Piano Competition, Italy, and 3rd Prize in the Manchester International Concerto Competition, UK. Luke was also awarded the RNCM Gold Medal, the college’s highest award for Performance. Furthermore, he has had broadcasts of his performances on BBC Wales Radio, S4C Television, Radio Vaticana and Telepace in Italy. 

He has performed with orchestras such as BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Manchester Camerata, Orchestra of the Swan and Jove Orquestra Nacional de Catalunya. At the age of 5 he studied with Eva Warren, and then at the age of 8 began studying with concert pianist Andrew Wilde. Subsequently at the age of 11 he was awarded a place at Chetham’s School of Music where he studied under the Head of Keyboard, Murray McLachlan from 2006-2013. Between 2013-2015 he studied at Conservatorio di Musica ‘Lorenzo Perosi’ Campobasso under the guidance of Mº Carlo Grante. Since 2015, he has studied under the tutelage of Prof. Dina Parakhina at the RNCM, where he completed his Bachelor’s Degree with First Class Honours and Master’s Degree with Distinction. Luke has been fortunate to have had masterclasses/lessons with notable pianists such as Kathryn Stott, Leslie Howard, Vladimir Tropp, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Bernard Roberts, Hamish Milne, Peter Donohoe, Stephen Hough, Llyr Williams, David Wilde and Philippe Cassard. 

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/06/14/luke-jones-towering-the-heights-at-st-marys/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2021/05/19/luke-jones-for-cranleigh-arts-simplicityintelligence-and-virtuosity/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.com/2019/10/17/luke-jones-reaching-for-the-stars/

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