Daniel Lebhardt A complete artist descends on St Mary’s with simplicity and grandeur

Tuesday 16 May 3.00 pm 


Schnabel famously said that Mozart was too easy for children but too difficult for adults.It was this that passed through my thoughts as I listened to this extraordinary young artist where everything seemed so natural and simple.Playing of clarity,radiance and intelligence bringing the scores to life with an inner fire and conviction that I have not experienced since Serkin.A technical mastery and control that is so complete that it never draws attention to itself .Placed at the service of the composer with integrity and honesty.Last year we were astonished by Daniel’s virtuoso performance of Schumann’s notoriously difficult Toccata op 7.It was placed in between the seemingly innocent Beethoven Sonata op 54 which is in practice one of the most notoriously difficult and it’s twin the ‘Appassionata’ op 57.


Today we were treated to three classical Masterworks by Bach,Mozart and Beethoven where the authority,simplicity and even the sound reminded me of Yefim Bronfman one of the great musicians of our time.It is refreshing too to see a young pianist leaving the much overplayed Russian school and concentrating more on the classical repertoire where it is more quality than quantity that counts.


The Hungarian school of playing inspired by Liszt has in fact produced some of the finest musicians before the public as Daniel made us aware of too today.Perfecting his studies with Pascal Nemirovski in London and Birmingham I remember in a Beethoven Sonata Marathon on this very piano there were many pianists taking part from the remarkable class of Nemirovski.


A school where the start of an interpretation is with scrupulous attention to the composers wishes as written in the score.Of course style and personality are what make the stale notes on a page come to life.Every pianist sees the notes through his own kaleidoscope formed by a very personal vision of good taste and reasoning from the world that surrounds him.


The Prelude was of a crystal clarity where the ornaments unwound with a jewel like precision that shone so beautifully in such a continuous outpouring of simplicity and beauty.There was a fluidity to the Allemande with a beauty of line that contrasted with the infectious rhythmic energy of the Courante with the discreetly and graciously placed embellishments.So often these days embellishments are added because it is thought to be authentic but can distort rather than enlighten when played without real scholarship or taste.Daniel knew exactly how to embellish for the glory of the music not the misinformed performer! Ravishing beauty of disarming simplicity crowned the Sarabande with an aristocratic bearing and nobility with the embellishments that added a touch of magic to the ritornello.It was noticeable the beautiful arch of Daniel’s hand that could sculpture so poignantly one of the most wonderful creations of Bach.There was a simple flowing elegance to the Minuet 1 with it’s sneaky ornaments of subtlety and effect.The Musette sound of the Minuet 2 was created totally by his fingers as they knew better than his feet the sound they wanted to imitate.Elegance and light in the Gigue that was played with the same freshness and ‘joie de vivre’ that Rosalyn Tureck used to bring to it ,often played as a favourite encore in her all Bach programmes.

Although each of the Partitas was published separately under the name Clavier – Ubung (Keyboard Practice), they were subsequently collected into a single volume in 1731 with the same name, which Bach himself chose to label his Opus 1.Unlike the earlier sets of suites, Bach originally intended to publish seven Partitas, advertising in the spring of 1730 upon the publication of the fifth Partita that the promised collected volume would contain two more such pieces. The plan was then revised to include a total of eight works: six Partitas in Part I (1731) and two larger works in Part II (1735), the Italian Concerto BWV 971, and the Overture in the French style BWV 831 which is an eleven-movement partita, the largest such keyboard work Bach ever composed, and may in fact be the elusive “seventh partita” mentioned in 1730. The Overture in the French style was originally written in C minor, but was transposed a half step down for publication to complete Bach’s ingenious tonal scheme.

Title page of the first partita, printed in 1726 by Balthasar Schmid of Nuremberg
There was a great sense of proportion to Daniel’s Mozart as he depicted the characters playing their part in the operatic scenario that was unfolding.There was an energy and inner life to all he did.The beautifully flowing opening answered by the gentle reply from the horns as it built in fervour to be greeted by the entry of the soprano.Gradually building in tension with the discreet contrasts and forward movement of forte and piano,adding a delicious scale to take us back to the recapitulation.There was a wonderful sense of balance in the Adagio that allowed the melodic line to sing so naturally and with such poise and style.The absolute fidelity to the score brought the last movement vividly to life with even the very first chord played with the utmost precision.The fleet finger work was shaped with operatic style with a beautiful moment of respite with long held notes and delicate arpeggios giving a great contrast to the return of the main theme in the recapitulation.

The Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major K.332 was published in 1784 along with the Sonata n.10 in C major K.330 and n.11 K. 331.Mozart wrote these sonatas either while visiting Munich in 1781, or during his first two years in Vienna.Some believe, however that Mozart wrote this and the other sonatas during a summer 1783 visit to Salzburg made for the purpose of introducing his wife, Constanze to his father, Leopold .All three sonatas were published in Vienna in 1784 as Mozart’s Op. 6

A performance of dynamic drive and energy from the very first whispered chords deep in the bass,to the controlled frenzy of the coda of the final movement.Daniel managed to maintain the tempo in the first movement ,so often played with a slacking of tempo ,for the second subject that can lessen the rhythmic impact and architectural shape of this extraordinarily energetic whirlwind of a movement.Absolute clarity and scrupulous attention to detail were the hallmarks of an exhilarating performance.An austere beauty to the Adagio introduction created an atmosphere out of which shone the top G,An apparition that was brought to life with the gentle undulation of the Rondo.There was playing now of transcendental command and authority but also great delicacy as he noted quite scrupulously Beethoven’s long pedal markings.Always under control but with an inner energy that via the glissando scales (not easy on this piano) we arrived at the long held trills over which Beethoven floats the melody with delicately changing harmonies as it leads to the final drive and the five dramatic chords with which Beethoven slams the door shut in our face.A quite remarkable performance of astonishing clarity and animal drive but with a simplicity and beauty of sound that brought this monumental work vividly to life.

Peace could now reign and Daniel was happy to conjure out of the piano the magic sounds of one of Beethoven’s last works for the piano op 126 n.3 .Sounds that were in his head alone in his last years when deafness had given him the peace and tranquility that he had often been denied during his earlier life.Daniel played it with serene simplicity with the long held pedal notes adding a magic atmosphere of a better world that Beethoven could already envisage.

Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major Op. 53, known as the Waldstein, is one of the three most notable sonatas of Beethoven’s middle period ,the other two being the Appassionata op 57 ,and Les Adieux op 81a.Completed in summer 1804 and surpassing Beethoven’s previous piano sonatas in its scope, the Waldstein is a key early work of Beethoven’s “Heroic” decade (1803–1812).The sonata’s name derives from Beethoven’s dedication to his close friend and patron Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel con Waldstein, member of Bohemian noble Waldstein family.It is also known as L’Aurora (The Dawn) in Italian, for the sonority of the opening chords of the third movement, thought to conjure an image of daybreak.

In 2014 Daniel Lebhardt won 1st Prize at the Young Concert Artists International auditions in Paris and New York. A year later he was invited to record music by Bartók for Decca and in 2016 won the “Geoffrey Tozer Most Promising Pianist” prize at the Sydney International Competition. In 2018 he has been signed for commercial management by Askonas Holt. March 2020 saw Daniel make his debut with The Hallé, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5 – a work he has also performed at the Barbican, London and Symphony Hall, Birmingham. The last two concert seasons have also witnessed recital debuts in Dublin and Kiev, and at the Lucerne International, Tallinn International and Miami International Piano festivals. He has received reinvitations to Wigmore Hall, London, the Auditorium du Louvre, Paris and Merkin Concert Hall in New York (‘He brought narrative sweep and youthful abandon to [Liszt’s B minor Sonata], along with power, poetry and formidable technique’ – The New York Times). Other recent highlights include a return to Paris for a recital at L’Église Saint-Germain-des-Près, as part of the festival ‘Un week-end à l’Est’; an appearance as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21 at the Royal Festival Hall, London; and tours in China, South America and the USA. ?Born in Hungary, Daniel studied at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest with István Gulyás and Gyöngyi Keveházi, then with Pascal Nemirovski at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He was a prizewinner at the Young Classical Artists Trust auditions in 2015 and currently lives in Birmingham.


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