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Andreas Boyde Brahms Piano Music complete
Recital Room, Blackheath Sundays, London 9 May 2004

Programme: Sunday 7 May 2004 (sic)
4 Ballades Opus 10
Variations on an original theme Op. 21 No.1
Three Intermezzi Op.117
Paganini Variations Op.35
Sonata in F sharp minor Op.2
Sonata in F minor Op.5

Andreas Boyde

The listing as above of Andreas Boyde's of this second recital caused alarm upon arrival! Commissioned Blackheath programmes often give poor value for their sponsor, and for such a mammoth enterprise it is far better that artists should provide their own notes and express their thoughts about the music to the audience. And at the least they should check what the audience is being told, and announce corrections and changes from the platform!

Brahms to me is a composer who does not thrive with the intégrale treatment. His music is too replete with repetitions (whether or not they are written out in the scores) and it is perhaps too well known. At home, surely you would not play Brahms piano music CDs straight through for one or two hours? I departed, feeling somewhat pulverised after hearing the Ballades, Op 21/1 Variations and Rhapsodies Op 79 (unscheduled!) in succession and unable to face the Paganini Variations and two (?) of Brahms' gigantic sonatas which appeared to be on offer after the interval. The performances were note perfect but heavy handed and unilluminating.

Enough is enough. I fear that the whole project is misconceived and not flattering for a pianist whom I have enjoyed in the past in recital at Wigmore Hall and on CD.

If you play on the Blackheath Bösendorfer, you have to interpret the dynamics for the ears of the listener, which is not easy for every player (c.f. my review of Elena Riu there). It is remarkable how a pianist's memory and fingers can absorb a huge corpus of music like this, but something separate is required for the dynamics, and they need to be applied on the actual occasion.

I wondered if Andreas Boyde had taken up my suggestion to discuss giving the rest of his Blackheath series in the Great Hall as recommended in my review last year? A sparsely filled Recital Room of Blackheath Halls is no less discouraging than a similar number of listeners in the larger hall, which is far more suitable acoustically for Boyde's type of pianism. On this occasion his uninhibited approach seemed to be aimed for a very large auditorium like the Royal Albert Hall - which used to be popular for piano recitals a century ago and was regularly filled by renowned giants of the keyboard such as Pachmann!

- - Andreas Boyde is a well established young recitalist and concerto pianist, with several acclaimed recordings under his belt. At his debut recital at Blackheath, he also seemed not quite to have the measure of the same piano, and the intimacy of the Recital Room.

This recital was given on the 'first leg' of a project to tour America and Europe with the complete original works for piano solo by Brahms, and to record them. That is a heroic undertaking, one that few have ventured since the memorable recital series of Julius Katchen, and his bench-mark boxed set of 6 CDs, originally issued on LPs ( London 4552472 ).

Andreas Boyde began well with a convincing account of the rarely heard Scherzo Op 4, a big work which no more fits the 'joke' connotation of its title than do those of Chopin. His command of the relentless passage work was complete, and his spare pedalling and variety of nuances boded well. The long first half continued with the Op 9 Schumann Variations, and here he could with advantage have paid far more attentive respect to the numerous pp and ppp markings to rest our ears; that Boyde has all grades of dynamics and tone qualities in his equipment was amply demonstrated in his Schumann recital at Wigmore Hall, and on his several Athene CDs. I found the Op 116 Fantasies less persuasive as a whole, and was not sure whether his interpretations had reached their definitive form.

The huge Sonata Op 1 brought the strenuous recital (for player and audience) to a satisfying close with a no-holds barred assault in accord with the young Brahms going all out for the world's attention and recognition. The Minneliede movement based on an old song was beautifully handled and gave welcome respite before another barnstorming Scherzo ( allegro molto e con fuoco ) and the tempestuous finale, with liberal crescendo markings which had me thinking of a jockey whipping his steed to the finish.

It will be interesting to see how Boyde's Brahms is developing when he returns with further recitals next year; there is the makings of a fine cycle - a great one, we will see? Perhaps Andreas Boyde should consider the possibility of trying the Fazioli in the Great Hall? With the seating arranged in a semi-circle it is possible to create a feeling of intimacy, encouraging for performers, even when the audience is a small one.

P.S. I have been told that the second half of Andreas Boyde's 9 May recital was devoted to the F Minor Sonata - which was very well played - and that the recitalist gave a short explanation of the programme changes and admitted that what was down in the programme booklet would have taken until the evening to complete!


© Peter Grahame Woolf