FringeReview UK 2018
At All Saints John Bruzon played transcription by Myra Hess, the Adagio from Bach’s Organ Toccata in C, then a quintet of Scarlatti Sonatas: in E K380, in A 208, D minor K32, in G K14, and C K159. Three Chopin Nocturnes: in F minor Op 55/1, C minor Op 48/1, and the famous E flat Op 9/2. The Liszt favourites were Petrarch Sonnet 47 and Valle d’Obermann, and two encores, Chopin’s waltz in C minor Op 34/2, and Falla’s Ritual Fire Music from El Amor Bruhjo.
John Bruzon’s such a fixture of the south-east you forget his distinction and his journey. Born in Gibraltar, he came to the UK to study with Eric Hope (fine pianist, unexpressive teacher) and particularly Irene Kohler at Trinity College of Music; then embarked on one of those dazzlingly underrated careers that brings him into our orbit. Famed as a Liszt player and throughout the area as a teacher, it’d be good to have a disc or thee of him.
First a prayer-like transcription by Myra Hess, the Adagio from Bach’s Organ Toccata in C played like a rapt introductory before the quintet of Scarlatti sparklers that followed.
Bruzon starts with one of the most famous. The trilling first in E K380 is marked Andante comodo – you could say stately as a galleon since it’s a kind of processional. For princes perhaps in Portugal court. But there’s a strumming refrain and and a repeated-note refrain with a climax of the song-motif, all at this walking-pace.
The next in A 208 glows like a slow discourse amongst an intimate friend walking Adagio cantabile, slowly singing – it’s like that because there’s a song in the right hand with a strumming mandolin-like accompaniment in the left hand bass.
The D minor K32 is one of those black pearls a kind of Aria, a song in shadows with its desolate peak in its second-to-last note falling away, memorably. It’s the kind of dark we associate with Bach, say in the Goldberg’s twenty-fifth variation. The next in G K14 contrasts as you’d expect, with its tolling bright four-note theme, presto, and striking repeats like a kind of clock. Then C K159 with its eight tied-note horn-calls brightly trilling, an outdoors piece calling us to a little local blood-letting; and much more specially its sudden glissandi swooping down the keyboard near the end.
Three Chopin Nocturnes followed this, the first two pretty dark minor-keyed works, The first: in F minor Op 55/1 is well-known, a solitary walk like one of the Scarlattis, where the let hand tolls out gently, the whole thing wrapped in unremitting bleak F minor. in its long winding theme. The only slightly more ruffled middle section energizes though instead of being back where we were there ‘s a rippling faster conclusion before the coda. Bruzon tackled this differently but with the same reach of sadness as Valle d’Obermann.
The C minor Op 48/1, is less well-known though revered by pianists. Marked by Chopin himself as sotto voce it’s more a slow song, even slower in tempo than the previous with a contrasting right-hand skein of wistfulness rising in a climactic grief remembered. So inward save in the central section it bars showiness but rewards with a stunning central section that suddenly explodes and becomes a kind of scherzo with a swift sign-off.
The famous E flat Op 9/2 is far removed from all that, recalling Irishman John Field who invented the Nocturne (good to hear some of his works sometime). It’s still late-classical too, with its its happy hazed summer song, simple outline and clarity – it’s texturally restrained with the song element given a left-hand accompanying it that peeks out expressively now and then but doesn’t form a dramatic function.
Two Liszt favourites followed. Petrarch Sonnet 47 from Années de Pélerinage Book II is a rsing soul-aspiring transcript /9liekt the other two sonnets) of a Liszt song, starts off in A but then soars into this D flat transfiguring of Petrarch’s ‘sweet suffering’, an over arching sublimity. Bruzon’s wholly at home in this repertoire too, and he dispatches with his powerful sense of storytelling and surge.
Valle d’Obermann’s on of Liszt’s bleaker pieces from Book I. The tenebrous dark swirl of chords at the bottom strike out the E minor melody pulling down its grieving – typically associated wit this key – in a contemplation perhaps of what might have been. Asking the dangerous question of identity and direction in one. It’s a one of the great expressions of melancholy, even gloom, in te romantic piano repertoire, never vehement, though in tis downward-moving theme always plangent. Bruzon again is completely at one with a piece he knows intimately.
There were two encores, Chopin’s waltz in C minor Op 34/2, with tis melancholic slow swirl; and a sudden flaring in a way to end this particular recital. Falla’s Ritual Fire Music from El Amor Bruhjo. Bruzon’s a consummate pianist we take for granted because he’s part of the concert-life of this city. He deserves wide acclaim.