Performer: Paul Lewis
The crowd are gathered to greet the world renowned pianist, Paul Lewis, in an altered Brighton Dome; a venue usually packed with 1500 or more now seats a socially distanced two or three hundred spread across the large hall. The murmurings from the reduced crowd, before the show begins, is that it is lovely to be back inside a theatre at last. The front is set out in a cabaret style with a dozen small tables, which fosters an intimate atmosphere in the auditorium and as Lewis approaches the piano loud applause echoes around the building in anticipation of an electrifying hour of classical music.
A graduate of London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Lewis has performed with all the major UK orchestras and across Europe and America. Known as one of the foremost exponents of Beethoven’s music, tonight Lewis presents an hour of diverse music, exquisitely performed.
While Beethoven is not in the program, the audience are treated to three very different pieces that go together well as a whole and are mesmerising to listen to.
First up is Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A major K331, the third movement being the most famous for being transcribed to full orchestral performances. Written by Mozart between 1781 and 1783, the piece was constructed in the “Turkish style” which was popular in Vienna at the time. The sound was an attempt to recreate the percussive sound of Turkish military bands for the piano.
With fast, long runs of notes, the Sonata has a floating bounce and incredible energy to it which Lewis plays with supreme agility, skill and with an expert lightness of touch, to the delight of the gathered throng.
The next piece, Five Preludes Op74 by Alexander Scriabin is a complete departure from the airy ethereal nature of the Mozart sonata. It bumps the audience back down to earth exploring despair, yearning and anger throughout its dissonant notes, pauses and emotional moods. Lewis attacks this piece with vigor and is as gripping to watch as the music is to hear.
The final half of the performance is given over to Modest Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition; written in 1874 after Musorgsky attended a memorial exhibition of watercolours and designs of a friend who suddenly died aged 39. The music takes the listener around the art retrospective using sound as a reference to what the composer has seen.
Most well known for the five promenade sections, which have had many orchestra interpretations, the piece, both intense and brooding, is played with graceful elegance and potency by Lewis; the audience captivated by every note.
The performance concludes with the section called The Great Gate of Kiev which builds to a great joyful crescendo of piano roar, representing a religious procession and loud ringing bells. It is a strong and moving finish. One which is heartily and warmly embraced by all those here to witness it in the Brighton Dome. This is a fabulous night of classic piano. Lewis provides a stellar performance not to be missed.
Reviewed on 18th May