London-based Australia pianist Jayson Gillham gave a recital on Wednesday evening that concluded with a dashing performance of the Schumann Symphonic Etudes. The performance of this work was given including posthumous variations and this greatly expanded the emotional scope of the piece. Gillham was sensitive in the many poetic numbers, playing with a beautiful singing and intimate tone. In the faster variations, his playing was in tune with the quirky and humorous nuisances; and in the concluding number, maintained a firm control and satisfying climax.
The other major work, in the first half was Beethoven’s famous “Waldstein” sonata. Here was another very strong performance where in the second movement, there was some dynamic playing and a pedaling that provided the beginning with a feeling of wonder and elevated atmosphere that was to contrast with the more earthly virtuosity of the various development passages. Those double octaves at the end have never been more easily and effectively dispatched in a live performance. Before this, the first movement was controlled, organised and always with the musical elements carefully nurtured and presented. The development section was delivered with a fine climax before the return.
In this fine recital, Gillham started the concert with two Baroque works, Bach’s Toccata in C minor and Handel’s Chaconne in G. I felt the Salon’s acoustic, rather dry, didn’t serve the music well here. Nonetheless, there was some simply beautiful playing in the Handel where the delightful tune and then bass line was expanded for seemingly countless florid variations of endless charm. In the Bach, the fugue was superbly played, always in control, and with a fine comb for the dramatic and the more sensitive moments.
There was one encore, Rachmaninoff’s transcription of the Gavotte movement from the Violin Partita in E Major. This was a charming little arrangement on the surface but the piece has many interesting features in that Rachmaninoff expands the climatic points and adds chromatic counterpoint to Bach’s original material. This was delivered with a nonchalant dash!
Gillham’s recital was originally scheduled for the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall and it was very disappointing to see it moved to the smaller Salon. There seemed to be very limited marketing for this recital. There needs to be a more careful and respectful treatment for returning Australian musicians to our major venues.