The Windmill Studio, Swineshead
December 10, 2011
How does a concert pianist cope after being stranded on a railway journey for five hours, followed by a quick dash to the performance venue half an hour after the start time, learning to explore the instrument before launching into the programme?
In the case of Japanese pianist Haruko Seki, who gave a recital recently at Swineshead Village Hall, the answer is brilliantly!
She began her programme with two contrasting works by Chopin, the ‘Nocturne’ (Op Posth) and the powerful Scherzo (Op 31), the delicacy of the former being matched by the powerful agility of the latter.
The bi-centenary of Liszt was celebrated this year, and he was represented by one of his towering masterpieces – ‘Vallee d’Obermann’ from ‘Annees de Pelerinage’ – years of travel in Switzerland and Italy – a work which made great demands on both the performer and instrument.
Gentle respite came in the shape of Debussy’s ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’ with its gracious filigree of sound, before rushing headlong into the composer’s ‘L’isle Joyeuse’ with its overtones of haughty eccentricity.
Two works by English composers, Vaughan Williams (‘Greensleeves Fantasia’) and Eric Coates (‘Knightsbridge’ March) proved curious choices until the soloist explained that she was developing a policy of ‘exporting’ British music to her native Japan, a laudable gesture.
But the centrepiece of the second part of her recital was an astounding performance of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. Incredible that her petite stature could generate such power, rhythmic drive and sheer exuberance: and the greater the technical demand, the more infectious her smiles.
Her encores – one of Schumann’s ‘Scenes of Childhood’, followed by a rumbustious account of Joplin’s ‘Maple leaf Rag’ brought this unforgettable – yes, brilliant recital to a close.