Review: Richard Casey, York Late Music Concert Series, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate

9:56am Monday 10th May 2010

By Reader's letter

THIS was a long and challenging concert, which made tremendous demands on the performer and indeed on the audience.

Steve Crowther’s Piano Sonata was the most moving work of the evening, a vigorous and poignant battle against torment armed with rays of anger, ending with a sombre and gentle acceptance of fate – perhaps a truce.

George Crumb’s Five Pieces can sometimes sound like an exercise for curious cat and piano, but Casey was sensitive to every tiny detail.

Jonathan Brigg was the second Bradford-born composer on the programme. His two short pieces were comparatively accessible, although without compromising integrity; at times almost cheerful. Scrap Metal’s hint of cartoon mischief segued into the darker animated mosaic of The Freedom Of Execution.

Simon Holt’s Nigredo allowed Casey to display his unflagging virtuosity with its dynamic variety and darkening mood.

John Adams’ jazzy, syncopated American Berserk was followed by Crumb’s strange and sometimes beautiful Little Suite For Christmas, a work partly inspired by paintings by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel. It has great chimes, awestruck Magi, tiny angelic psaltery sounds, the rocking of a cradle in the Berceuse and even a fleeting fragment of the Coventry Carol.

Maxwell Davies said that his Piano Sonata was difficult to compose. Although there is a hint of Scottish snap in the first movement and an impression of seabirds in the Scherzo, Stromness is soon well over the horizon and performer and audience alike are in stormy waters. Casey at the helm steered us skilfully to the end of a long and dangerous journey.

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