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Piano Gallery, Royal Academy of Music, London, 15 June 2012.

Olivia Sham is in the midst of a series of Liszt-centred recitals at the Royal Academy of Music

She has been delving into the relatively uncharted but significant field of performing nineteenth-century piano music on historical instruments, including performances on various nineteenth-century pianos.

The high romanticism represented by Liszt is by no means a central interest of ours (indeed, I came to this event with some trepidation). The experience of hearing some of Liszt's barn-storming extravaganzas in the RAM's piano gallery put things in a far better perspective. Olivia Sham moved 'seemlessly', piece to piece, between the 1920 Steinway A and their beautiful Erard of 1849 in the foreground (see photo).

She had committed the entire oeuvre to memory, and played with bravura and delicacy, winning over easily the capacity audience, not all Liszt enthusiasts, convincing us that the right historical instruments can help us to get closer to a Liszt 'sound' quite different to what is often heard in today’s concerts.

The elegant 4-page programme leaflet, quite a collector's piece, threw light upon the project as a whole, to be continued with a recital of Late Liszt at RAM on 12 November. Meanwhile, do click and enjoy Olivia's sensitive account of Liszt's Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude given at a recital in RAM's Duke's Hall earlier this year.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also M P reviews of Daniel Grimwood (Liszt & Chopin on Erard 1851); the future for romantic, classical and pre-classical keyboard music lies with musicians who explore them on good period instruments, which should bring new insights even to those who prefer to stick by modern Steinways, as do many celebrity pianists and their audiences...PGW