Review: Danny Driver, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, York

PIANIST Danny Driver made a welcome return to the York Concerts Series on February 20 with a diverse and fascinating programme.

Driver opened the concert with a stylistic and stylish account of C. P. E. Bach’s Fantasia in F-sharp minor, combining masterful accuracy with improvisatory flair. The fantasia theme was maintained with Robert Schumann’s enthrallingly dramatic Kreisleriana. Driver delivered stormy playing in abundance for the more animated of the work’s eight Fantasias, but also responded sensitively to the composition’s quieter moments, displaying an impressively agile and lyrical technique.

Each of the six movements of Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin pay tribute to a friend the composer lost in the First World War. Yet the music is not sombre in tone, but colourful and, at points, playful. From the opening bars of the Prelude, Driver demonstrated a light and delicate touch, evoking an ethereal and impressionistic soundscape.

This was followed by Kaija Saariaho’s Ballade for Piano, a heavy and intriguing piece which weaves multi-layered textures from single lines and strips them back again throughout. Driver embraced the force of the work’s most powerful sections while letting the melodies ring out above the wall of sound.

Nikolai Medtner’s Piano Sonata No. 9 in A minor, commonly known as the "War Sonata", is hugely demanding. Driver rose undauntedly to the challenge; his performance was warm and expressive, compellingly projecting the Sonata’s climactic swells. The eclectic programme showcased Driver’s incredible versatility and made for a highly enjoyable evening of musical virtuosity and enchanting repertoire.

Review by Alice Masterson