Five-star ‘Scotsman’ review of my Queen’s Hall solo recital

11th February 2017 | Concerts, Reviews | 6 comments

I haven’t written anything here for a while because I have been busy preparing for a big solo recital programme last Thursday in the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh (and for several ‘run-up’ concerts in different parts of the country). All went well, and after a very happy evening with a great audience on Thursday I was delighted to read a five-star review in today’s Scotsman:

‘This was a beautifully conceived, brilliantly executed programme by a pianist who combines a rock solid technique with a rare ability to communicate her deep understanding of the music she plays. With little fuss, Susan Tomes distils the essence of a piece of music into its purest form in the most profound and moving way. Debussy’s Preludes Book 2 is inspired by a delightful mix of the mundane and fantastical. Like a sound colourist, Tomes brought these 12 sketches vividly to life, from Peter Pan’s dancing fairies to circus jugglers and the more abstract moonlight, mist and fireworks. She also highlighted Debussy’s fascination with peripheral action, the splashes of tumbling notes that twinkle like stars in the distance.

Schubert’s Impromptus No 2 in G flat and No 3 in A flat are familiar repertoire staples, but Tomes unveiled them as if fresh off the page. It was the same for one of Beethoven’s most emotionally intense late sonatas, Op 109 in E major. Totally deaf, the composer was obsessed with Bach, from a religious and musical viewpoint, which influenced the structure and form of the sonata. The deceptively simple theme in the first movement belies a moody undercurrent which rises to the surface every so often and lets off steam in the edgy prestissimo. However, it was the rhapsodic Sarabande with its variations that danced under Tomes’ fingers. It concluded with a repetition of the theme, the final chord pedaled into heartbreaking infinity.’

6 Comments

  1. Rikky Rooksby

    Congratulations, Susan – that is quite a review. But I’m sure a lot of hard work went into the preparation for it.

    Reply
    • Susan Tomes

      Thanks, Rikky – yes, a lot of work went into it! A great deal of the work, especially in the latter stages, was about memorising. I played the whole programme from memory. I was lucky and it went well on the night. I did notice afterwards, when chatting about it to some of the audience, that not everyone had even consciously registered that I was playing from memory. How important is it to play from memory? I still wonder.

      Reply
  2. Maggie Saunders

    A wonderful evening. The piano seemed to just deliver up the music in an act of spontaneous exuberance; such is the delicate disciplined mastery of Susan’s touch that the notes floated and swept through the air and into the emotional vortices of the audience. The tight, syncopated, mathematical idiosyncrasies of Debussy (ones that I have to rather sit up and work at to appreciate ), the swooning lyricism of the tender, nostalgic Schubert, and the final transcendent ecstasy as Beethoven yields up his soul to the inevitable, made for an evening of exhilarating, poignant elegance. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Susan Tomes

      Maggie, thank you! What a wonderful response.

      Reply
  3. James B

    I wish I had been there, it sounds like it was a marvellous night. Congratulations on the wonderful review! By some coincidence I have been obsessed with Debussy’s prelude subtitled ‘canope’ recently. The more I read about it the more it seems to divide attention with some seeming to consider it a second rate work that was only published to make up the numbers and others seeing it as a small masterpiece. I wonder what you think, Susan. I’m sure it was very difficult to memorize.
    Regarding memorizing pieces, my two pence worth is that it’s really not important. For me it’s almost an act of ‘showing off’, which detracts from the music itself. Many would disagree, however, and I greatly admire and respect people who do it. That said, I think that the composers themselves would take great delight to know that somebody, centuries on, would be prepared to spend time memorizing their music.

    Reply
    • Susan Tomes

      Thank you, James! Yes, I am a fan of Debussy’s lovely evocative’Canope’, although I am not sure I would go so far as to say it’s a small masterpiece!
      As to the matter of memorising, I continue to feel that attitudes are changing. It’s a subject I might write about again soon on this blog … watch this space!

      Reply

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