Richard Saxel presented a fascinating solo piano recital in a late evening concert entitled ‘Nocturne’, the culmination of a major artistic project and CD recording that is due for release next month.
Through selected pieces and accompanying projections of fine art and paintings either linked with the music directly, or inspirationally in Richard’s imagination, he challenged the audience to contemplate the complex literal and psychological nature of ‘night’.
Assisted by George Royall operating the visual projections and with thanks to Hamish Ellis and Tom Butler for their technical assistance, this hugely imaginative approach was superbly executed and added a whole new dimension to the genre of a solo instrumental recital.
We began by journeying through the poignant melodies of Alec Rowley and Anthony Hill (who taught piano at Cranleigh for many years) in an English pastoral style, before moving on to John Field (1782-1837), the first composer to title a romantic character piece as a Nocturne.
The music of Liebermann took us to a much darker musical place full of drama and threat, whilst the each of the pieces by Chopin, Poulenc and Durey offered an unfulfilled sadness and longing. Scandinavian composers Palmgren and Grieg evoked a mysterious, snowy, winter landscape, whilst Russian composers Glinka and Scriabin created a more subtly romantic and personal interpretation of the night.
The final group of pieces by Piazzolla, Brubeck and Desyatnikov took us to South America, to New York and around the world in a chase pursued by the KGB…! Each of these pieces had a rhythmic vitality that painted widely different soundscapes for the audience.
Richard played with a fluidity and deep understanding of the music that allowed the melodies and varied harmonic textures to flow beautifully and weave their magic within subtle moonlight effects now possible with the new performance lighting in the Chapel.
His impeccable dexterity and control was balanced with well crafted emotional climaxes and space that allowed the audience to ponder the unique character of each Nocturne. There was something very special at work here. We the audience really did feel we had been taken on a psychological journey and it was a privilege to hear such accomplished playing on the superb Steinway instrument in such a beautiful and thoughtfully-crafted recital.