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Brighton Year-Round 2024

St Nicholas John Bruzon Recital

John Bruzon

Genre: Live Music

Venue: St Nicholas Church, Dyke Road, Brighton


Low Down

John Bruzon is one of the most welcome fixtures on the south coast.  He plays Tchaikowsky, Brahms, Albeniz, Liszt and Mompou.


John Bruzon is one of the most welcome fixtures on the south coast.  Here he plays Tchaikowsky, Brahms, Albéniz, Liszt and as an encore Mompou.

Bruzon’s way with Tchaikowsky is the road less travelled by. The late 1892 The Months, wrongly translated as The Seasons (after William Sterndale Bennett’s and Fanny Mendelssohn’s sets) are naturally a set of twelve. June is a supreme perennial, though March, October, November and December have always been popular and played more frequently.

Bruzon plays January, ‘By the Fireside’ also popular and memorably fragile, evoking an ellipsis of warmth against splintering cold. April Snowdrops and May, ‘May Nights’ are by turns also delicate and more robust, melodies eased out and more elusive than the better known numbers of the set. December ‘Christmas’ is a rousing Mazurka-rhythm, full of reminiscence and hope too. It’s the finest of the four here though January’s stealing into our affections.

The two Brahms Intermezzi from 1893 are very well-known, the Op 117/1 Lullaby in E flat, winding out a gentle rocking rhythm, indeed cradle song, prefaced by an anonymous Scottish ballad. Here it’s magically limpid, and timeless.

The Op 118/2 in a major is anything but major-hued: it’s a consolatory regret it seems for lost opportunities. Perhaps with Clara Schumann, dedicatee of so many pieces. Brahms only had himself to blame. Bruzon’s particularly inward with these pieces, refusing to smooth over the ribbed rubato of some of the shifts in tempo.

A shift to Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) delivers two pieces from the end and middle of his career. Often transcribed for guitar, Albéniz never wrote for the guitar himself but evoked its rhythms and colour. Guitarists have paid him the compliment of colonising him, so it’s refreshing to hear his piano originals, especially as he was a celebrated concert pianist worldwide.

‘Mallorca’ Op 202 in D minor (possibly from 1907-08) is a fine evocation, full of inner rhythms like castanets Bruzon playfully suggested, but  a gallimaufry of colour and kaleidoscopic evocation of a once-mysterious island, sun-bleached white walls and a slant of shadow.

‘Rumores de la Caleta’ *Rumours from the Courtyard) Op 71/6 from around 1900 is an Andalusian flamenco-style dance, with complex rhythms, sliding out from the world of Seville. A superb snatch of extended dance-tunes concentrated into a single piece.

As climax, Bruzon offered Liszt’s La Chapelle de William Tell S160.It’s from Liszt’s First Book of Années de Pélerinage. Published in its final form in 1855, it opens and closes with a contemplative gaze on the Alps and indeed involves Alp-echo effects and much else, but rises to a soaring climax, with emphatic chords beginning and ending the central section and indeed the climax of the work. Invoking Swiz independence in 1301, it’s one of those works where aspiring nationalism, very present in 19th century Europe, finds its coded avatar in previous struggles, whilst the Hapsburgs (who lost out here long ago) were still holding sway over Hungary, and indeed Italy, a well Austria, and most of middle Europe.

As encore, Bruzon played a work only learned finally a week ago. Frederico Mompou’s ‘Pajaro Triste’ or ‘Sad Bird’ from his early (1911-14) collection Impresiones intimas. This a whispering if more angled work than Mompou’s maturity (he lived 1983-1987), is still characteristic of his inches of ivory evoking timelessness in a few pared chords and space fluttered in just a few bars.

Sovereign performance, intriguing sidelights. An immensely satisfying recital.