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Malcolm Binns (piano)

Haydn: Variations in F minor HXVII:6
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas No. 22 in F Op. 54 & No. 32 in C minor Op. 111
John McCabe: Hommage to Mussorgsky - Study No. 11: Epithalamium (world première)
Sergey Lyapunov: Carillon, Berceuse & Lesghinka (Douze études d'exécution transcendante Op. 11)

Wigmore Hall, 8 July 2007

Too small an audience responded to one of this great pianist's infrequent appearances in London. Familiar to radio listeners in earlier decades, and to record collectors (q.v. our review of his Rawsthorne's piano concertos), at 71 his powers are undiminished and this was a great recital.

A specialist too on early keyboard (the first-ever to record of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas on original instruments (1977/Explore Records) he gave satisfying accounts of one of my Haydn favourites, perfectly scaled and meticulously pedalled. Of the Beethoven tonight, I was especially delighted by his uninhibited account of the (really not so little) Op 54 - the octave passages in the first of the two movements absolutely assured and musically phrased rather than just sounding like octave exercises. In Op 111 he made the Arietta to sing and dissolve in the trilled passages towards the end; I preferred it to some recent more 'prestigious' accounts. Binns has an inwardness and does not seek to impress with his prowess; the piano never sounded hard or too loud for the smallish hall.

The new McCabe study from Hommage to Mussorgsky is based upon the two memorable and recognisable chords that "swing to and fro during Boris' coronation scene". It is well crafted - and if that can be taken as slightly pejorative that may be intended; somehow it failed to take wing as a birthday gift for the commissioner's wife... The Lyapunov studies had the feel of Balakirev & Borodin and suited Binns' style of comfortable virtuosity; I don't think I'd want to hear them often.

For encores a different type of virtuosity, all about delicate keyboard colouration; Debussy's Serenade for a doll and a Chopin Nocturne; just right. A pianists' pianist.

Peter Grahame Woolf

For a different opinion of Binns in recital, see http://www.musicweb.uk.net/SandH/2003/July03/Binns149.htm