Edinburgh Fringe 2012
There are 88 keys on a piano. The 89th is the player. Hence the title of this concert from Sebastian Thirlway, ‘Key 89’. In a delightful hour or so of music in the stunning surroundings of St Mark’s Artspace, he takes us on a journey through the well-known (Schubert and Bach) to compositions off the mainstream (Webern) and beyond (impromptu jazz).
St Mark’s Artspace has recently emerged from its dust sheets following an extensive period of renovation. This charming 19th century church was designed by the famous Scottish architect David Bryce and provides excellent acoustics for both Baroque and Chamber music. And jazz.
We had examples of all three genres in this delightful concert from Fringe regular, Sebastian Thirlway. His small, but very appreciative audience was treated to four Schubert Impromptus, two interesting jazz pieces, Bach’s French Suite in E-flat major and an interesting piece by Anton Webern, an 20th century Austrian composer known for his economy in the use of notes.
Starting with two Schubert Impromptus, Thirlway demonstrated his clear understanding of the music and how he believes that Schubert intended it to be played. Both pieces flowed beautifully. He then changed the mood completely with a jazz piece that was beautifully constructed yet gave the impression of being almost totally improvised. Perhaps it was – he is such a gifted musician I would not have put it past him to have just been jamming on stage for three or four minutes. We finished the first half with Webern’s Variations for Piano, a fascinating piece with the three movements lasting a total of around five minutes. Webern was known for his musical economy – his longest piece lasted only eighteen minutes and his entire output would fit on four CDs (compared to the hundred plus for composers like Bach and Mozart).
The second half contained another couple of Schubert Impromptus, a jazz filler and finished with the Bach French Suite. This was clever scheduling in one sense as it allowed the audience to see the similarities between jazz piano and some of Bach’s work.
Thirlway is clearly an excellent classical pianist, totally wrapped up in the music he is playing. But I can’t help but think that he’s a better jazz pianist – the juices flowed when he allowed himself what appeared to be the luxury of not having to follow another composer’s music, giving him the freedom to use each and every one of those 88 keys in the way he wanted.
There’s just one more chance to catch him – next week on 15th August. It would be well worth it.