Wigmore Hall, London
Piers Lane, who celebrated his 60th birthday on Monday with a sell-out piano recital at the Wigmore Hall, came to London from Australia four decades ago. And fortunately for us he never left.
Lane has a formidable technique, a remarkable memory and sophisticated interpretative insights, all of which were brought to bear on music that, for the most part, eschewed the romantic stuff for which he is best known in favour of more classical pieces.
This recital was inspired by the legendary Dame Myra Hess and reproduced her first wartime recital at the National Gallery, with two sonatas by Scarlatti, two preludes and fugues by Bach, Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata and two Chopin nocturnes.
Lane (above) is a much-loved figure in British music, and it was touching to see so many distinguished musicians turning up to cheer him on, including the violinist Tasmin Little
The Scarlatti and Bach were beautifully turned, and the Beethoven – albeit in the first movement maybe a bit over-pedalled – displayed to the full Lane’s remarkable power and personality.
Lane is a much-loved figure in British music, and it was touching to see so many distinguished musicians turning up to cheer him on, including the violinist Tasmin Little, who, as a 21-year-old 30 years ago, rushed across a crowded room to enquire: ‘Are you Piers Lane? I want to play with you!’
And they have done numerous recitals and recordings since, including an ongoing series for Chandos of rarely heard British violin sonatas, which pay tribute to Lane’s devotion to the neglected music of his adopted country.
Also present was actress Dame Patricia Routledge, another Myra Hess enthusiast, with whom Lane has done almost 80 recitals the length and breadth of the country, where he plays some of Hess’s favourite pieces, while Routledge reads from her letters.
Perhaps the only disappointment in an exhilarating evening was the concluding work, Rachmaninov’s Variations On A Theme Of Chopin. This formidable piece was another tribute to Lane’s prestidigitation but the young Rachmaninov’s musical substance here couldn’t compare to what had gone before.
However, all was forgiven with the last encore – Dudley Moore’s Beethoven parody, with the principal melody from the Colonel Bogey March (you know the one) and a coruscating Beethovenian conclusion that keeps on refusing to end. Truly hilarious.
If you don’t know it (and I didn’t), do go to ‘Dudley Moore Beethoven’ on YouTube for some real fun.