Sunderland Pianoforte Society took the unusual step of holding a piano recital in May (17th.), made necessary by the postponement of Viv McLean’s planned recital in December 2010 due to extreme weather conditions across the North East.
Viv had agreed to postpone exactly the same programme until that new date.
Everyone was looking forward to Viv’s programme partly because a number of the items had been requested by members and friends of the Society.
The delay from December to May was well worth it! Everyone in the hall, which was comfortably full, enjoyed a wonderful evening. One of the requests opened the recital – Liszt’s six “Consolations”- with Viv in his subtlest Romantic mode. A wonderful performance of a well-loved set that produced the warmest applause from a deeply appreciative audience.
Viv then gave us an absolutely stunning performance of Beethoven’s Sonata Op.31 No. 2 “The Tempest”. The international music press have referred to Viv as playing”fire” at the keyboard. This was certainly true of his Beethoven where he captured the very varied characters of the three movements with total clarity and brilliance. Every nuance of tempo and dynamic was given to us with Viv’s carefully thought out phrasing and flowing melody lines. It is quite a number of years since the Sunderland Society has enjoyed this great Beethoven Sonata and this McLean interpretation was a really satisfying musical feast. Although only the interval break, Viv was called back by the applause for two “curtain calls”.
Viv’s second half began with a tribute to Chopin: the single (often not played) Prelude in C#minor Op.45, the rarely heard posthumous Nocturne in the same key, and then the great Ballade No.1 in G minor Op.23. Viv has a very special way with Chopin: Romantic,- true, but giving him the great stature that his writing deserves. Much emphasis on the clarity of inner detail and on Chopin’s frequent use of melodies running alongside main lines. In some clever way Viv was able to bring to the fore Chopin’s deeply experimental harmonies and use of the pedals. When it came to the Ballade, the audience was gripped by the sheer power that Viv gave to this true masterpiece of piano writing. Completed when Chopin had settled in Paris in 1835 and was approaching the height of his creative powers, this G minor Ballade is a virtuoso challenge from the points of view of requiring tremendous finger dexterity as well as the interpretive skills of an experienced and deeply musical personality. Viv simply astonished and delighted his audience.
He continued with a contrast: two quite unknown and literally never played pieces by the Russian, Vasily Kalinnikov, who died in 1901 a few days before his 35th. birthday. A tragic figure but a gifted composer who left us too little to appreciate his greatness. Viv gave us his “Elegy” and his “Nocturne in F# minor”. The audience was completely captivated by this late-nineteenth century Romanticism which was at once a comfortable and familiar idiom but at the same time fresh and completely original. Viv presented to us a musical mind of great fascination that most people wanted to know more about. Two unusual piece to include,but both highly successful and so beautifully handled that the audience loved and hung on to every note.
The “grand finale” of this successful evening, taking it to even greater heights of virtuosity, was Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in a piano solo version for which Viv has become deservedly famous. There simply has to be a lot going on at finger level when a pianist is re-creating a piece like this which had been originally scored for solo (concertante) piano and the Paul Whiteman Jazz Orchestra. At times it sounded as though there were two pianists at the keyboard. Viv’s lively and witty version of all of those Gershwin tricks and trademarks was just totally magnificent and the audience loved it! They simply kept on clapping!!
In his usual generous way, Viv gave two encores: that beautiful, slow A minor Mazurka by Chopin with all of its tricky filigree melodic decorations done
with Viv’s delicately light touch, and then his own gorgeous and dreamy arrangement of Harold Arlen’s famous song (that nearly did not get into the filming of “The Wizard of Oz”) “Somewhere, over the rainbow”.
These proved to be two pieces that calmed the evening after all the virtuosic excitements and heroic fireworks, and again Viv had the audience “eating out of his hands”.
They all went home smiling and singing. A good night was had by all. Perhaps could be summed up affectionately by the old saying:“Something old, something new, something borrowed and something Blue”. A grand finish to a successful season for the Sunderland Pianoforte Society.