Phillip Fawcett’s Piano Recital – The Chapel, University of Cumbria

5th February 2010 – Reviewed by Till Owlglass

Resplendent in black – and sporting a tastefully iridescent waistcoat – Phillip Fawcett took to the grand piano at the Chapel of the University of Cumbria (formerly St. Martin’s College) just after 7:40 pm last Friday, 5th February 2010.

Playing from memory, Fawcett delivered beautifully JS Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C-Minor. Bach is, of course, arguably the greatest composer who ever existed, and to hear one of his pieces performed by a master piano player was a highly sensual ear fest, so I was immediately won over.

It can be that simple.

Well, not always. The second piece of music on the menu was Franz Schubert’s Sonata in C major, and I have to admit I have very mixed feelings about Schubert – sometimes I like him, sometimes I don’t. It is entirely dependent on my mood, and that evening I was not really in the mood for Schubert.

However, Fawcett’s playing was so fluid and passionate (What does he do to get his fingers to manipulate the keyboard with such dexterity?) that I sank into my chair with a big grin of joy on my face. I leaned back, and let Schubert and Fawcett take me to heaven and back.

And then came David Jennings Sonata Opus 1 which promised to be fun, as the composer himself was sitting there in the audience. Actually, it was fun! Fawcett and Jennings collaborate regularly, and one can hear it when Fawcett performs Jennings’ music, as he made the piece seem so easy to play and enjoy. And he emphasised why Jennings’ is such a great composer: cerebral without being contrived, dissonant without being chaotic and ridiculously joyful without being schmaltzy. What also made me smile were the strong Jazz influences.

Yes, David Jennings’ 1st Piano Sonata swings!

Jennings later informed me that it had taken him twenty-one years to compose that piece. Hmmm. Good things come to those with patience.

After the break, Fawcett played pure and blessed Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 17 in B-flat major, a key considered to be magnificent and joyful, and in the hands of Mozart and Fawcett this is well and truly accentuated. It was simply fantastic and went down well with the audience (although that may be because the Earth allegedly hums in B flat). What more can one ask for?

Well Edvard Grieg I suppose, because as Phillip Fawcett performed Grieg’s Sonata in E minor, I started to muse that Fawcett and Grieg were made for each. Why do I say this? Phillip Fawcett is a happy man when he is playing the piano, and he always has a slight mischievous grin on his face, but when he’s executing Grieg… Boy! Do his eyes light up and do his fingers play like crazy.

Overall a fantastic evening, but one shouldn’t fawn too much when writing a review, so I should mention that I was disappointed by the encore, a polonaise by Chopin (probably my least favourite composer). However, even Chopin comes alive in the hands of Fawcett … Damn!

I should mention though that I am still not convinced by the Chapel of the University of Cumbria’s suitability for such events, as the acoustics are good…but not as good as the acoustics of the Priory, the Cathedral and even churches like Trinity Church on High Street.

Finally, the one true criticism I have was the tragically low turnout: twenty people enjoyed Fawcett’s playing. Twenty people…

Phillip Fawcett’s next performance is on Thursday 13th May at 12:40pm at the Ashton Hall and will include Scott Joplin’s Rags, Grieg’s lyrical pieces, Jennings Sonatina No.1 and a piano sonata by a Mr. Mozart.

It’s a must.

Copyright ‘Jomar de Vrind 2010′

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