Matthew McLachlan at St Mary’s – Dark Horses and united families of true artists

Tuesday 15 November 3.00 pm

Some extraordinary playing from one of the youngest members of the McLachlan clan.
A family where music is part of everyday life as they affront the most amazing activity as a united family with a freshness and disarming humility as they allow their music to flow so naturally from their being.
There is also a younger member of this remarkable clan ,the only one who does not play the piano professionally,but has instead chosen the path of professional goalkeeper.He has been chosen to be a junior member of the team in New York.
Matthew surprised even his mother last year when he ran off with the most prestigious piano prize at the Royal College of Music -The Chappell Gold Medal,when only in his second year.
To think it was by a hair string that he too had not followed his younger brother into the arena but as a professional boxer!
This is a family that if they decide to do something,they dedicate their heart and soul to it as we were only too aware today in Perivale.
A programme that would be enough to strike terror into the hearts of most pianists.
Brahms’s First Sonata op 1 and Chopin’s darkly brooding E flat minor Polonaise.Ending with the tour de force that is Stravinsky’s own arrangement of Petrushka dedicated to Rubinstein who rarely had the courage to play the three dances in public!
No sign of fear from Matthew today but just a glimmer every so often of being touched by the beauty of sounds that were pouring from his fingers.
Sitting back ,listening to his playing as he brought full orchestral sounds to this early work of Brahms.The rhythmic energy of the opening as he pounced on the keys dissolved as if by magic into the ravishing beauty of the second subject.A kaleidoscope of sounds and a sense of balance that never lost sight of the musical line and architectural shape as this symphony for piano was allowed to unfold .An Andante of rare beauty and simplicity, never allowing the pulse of the music to sag but the multi colours from a palette of sounds giving shape to this most pastoral of movements.
There was dynamic energy to the Scherzo contrasted with the Trio of the mellifluous richness of the finest of string orchestras.A final Allegro with a nervous energy that never let up until the final triumphant notes.
Chopin’s most mysterious and melancholic of Polonaises op 26 was played with whispered threats until a ray of sunlight brought things out into the open with spontaneous dance rhythms.The ever present cloud however was hovering over this work until the final shriek at the closure after a subdued vision of a distant military march.
There was no sign on this young man’s face of how deeply he felt the music but he was able through great technical control to share his hidden inner feelings with an audience following in rapt attention.
The infectious sense of dance in the three movement from Petrushka belied the technical hurdles that Matthew was scaling with seeming ease.Each dance was full of character as his range of sounds allied to a constant forward drive was indeed hypnotic.A tour de force of transcendental piano playing of great musicality and sense of character.
I don’t know how he would have been as a boxer but as a pianist it is evident his artistic soul and ease at the keyboard are remarkable gifts.

The Piano Sonata No. 1 in C major, Op. 1, by Brahms was written in Hamburg in 1853, and published later that year. Despite being his first published work, he had actually composed his second Sonata first, but chose this work to be his first published opus because he felt that it was of higher quality. The piece was sent along with his second sonata to Breitkopf & Hartel with a letter of recommendation from Schumann . Schumann had already praised Brahms enthusiastically, and the sonata shows signs of an effort to impress in its symphonic grandeur, technical demands, and dramatic character. It was dedicated to Joseph Joachim.The second movement is a theme and variations inspired by the song Verstohlen geht der Mond auf. Brahms was to rewrite it for female chorus in 1859 (WoO 38/20).Stealthily rises the moon.
Blue, blue flower!
Through silver cloudlets makes its way.
Blue, blue flower!
Roses in the dale,
Maiden in the hall,
O handsomest Rosa!
The Polonaise in C-sharp minor, Op. 26 No. 1 and the Polonaise in E-flat minor, Op. 26 No. 2 were composed by Chopin in 1836. Both of them were dedicated to Josef Dessauer.These were his first published polonaises.
Three Movements from Petrushka for the solo piano were composed ten years later than the ballet for his friend, pianist Arthur Rubinstein and are dedicated to him. Stravinsky is very explicit in stating that the movements are not transcriptions. He was not trying to reproduce the sound of the orchestra, but instead wished to compose a score which would be essentially pianistic even though its musical material was drawn directly from the ballet. Stravinsky also wanted to create a work which would encourage pianists to play his music, but it should be one in which they could display their technique, an objective he amply achieved.Stravinsky’s goal in arranging Petrushka for the piano (along with Piano-rag-Music)was to attempt to influence Arthur Rubinstein into playing his music. Rubinstein had commissioned a work from his friend,but when presented with the Piano Rag Music he refused to play such an ungrateful piece.A 1961 live recording featuring Rubinstein playing Petrushka at Carnegie Hall was published in 2012.)In order to gain the latter’s attention, Stravinsky ensured that Rubinstein would find the arrangement technically challenging but musically satisfying. Trois mouvements de Petrouchka reflects the composer’s intentions and, unsurprisingly, it is renowned for its notorious technical and musical difficulties. All three movements include wild and rapid jumps which span over two octaves, complex polyrhythms, extremely fast scales, multiple glissandos, and tremolos.

Matthew McLachlan was born in 2000 and started piano lessons with his father in 2008. At 11 years of age he passed grade 8 and entered Wells Cathedral School as a specialist musician, studying with John Byrne. After two years in Somerset he entered Chetham’s in Manchester where he studied piano with Dina Parakhina and Cello with Gill Thoday. After gaining the ATCL and LTCL recital diplomas with distinction in 2014 and 2015, Matthew was awarded the FTCL in 2016. This followed on from winning third prize in the senior division of the first Scottish International Youth Prize Competition, held at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in July 2016. In 2014 Matthew’s performance of Ravel’s G Major Piano Concerto was commended in the Chetham’s Concerto competition and in the same year he was a prizewinner at the 2014 Mazovia Chopin Festival in Poland. As a result of his performance in Mazovia, he was selected to perform a 60-minute solo recital at the 2015 World Piano Teachers’ Conference (WPTC) in Novi Sad, Serbia. In 2016 Matthew gave many recitals and was a finalist in the Chetham’s Beethoven Piano Competition for the second year running. In March 2017 he was awarded first prize in the Chetham’s Senior Bach competition. In August 2017 he performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in the Paderewski Festival in Poland. In Autumn 2017 he had a tour of concert performances featuring Brahms’ Sonata no. 1 in C major. Matthew is currently on a gap year, but before leaving Chetham’s he won the school’s Bosendorfer competition, playing Stravinsky’s ‘Three movements from Petrushka’. In 2018 he performed Mozart’s 13th concerto in Trieste, Haddington and Rhyl as well as Tchaikovsky’s first and Beethoven’s fourth concerto in Buxton with the orchestra of the High Peak. In the winter of 2018, the Knights of The Round Table awarded Matthew with a full scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London, where he now studies.


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