Review: Chichester Cathedral Lunchtime Concerts series – Caroline Tyler, piano

Caroline Tyler, Chichester Cathedral, Feb 6

On Caroline Tyler’s website it’s possible to have your own bespoke composition based on your name at what looks a very fair price. It’s called Composify. Would that creativity came quite so easily to some of the rest of us but music poured out of the likes of Telemann, Vivaldi and Haydn as if it were on tap so you’ve maybe either got it or you haven’t.

With Schubert and Chopin on her programme alongside her own compositions we might have thought we knew what to expect but we’d have been wrong, at least as regards her opening Sky Prelude. That was Bach-like, or Bach-lite, with its walking left hand on terra firma while the right hand explored skywards. That was followed by Star Prelude by Poul Ruders that was hypnotic and akin to Steve Reich or Philip Glass, the busy right hand like motorway traffic over off-beat left hand rhythms.

In some way, Schubert’s Impromptu op. 90, no.2 did a similar thing and wasted no time in the process before in no. 3 the hands changed roles.

If that was familiar then Chopin’s Nocturne, op. 9 no.2, was more so and elegantly paced by way of arriving at Caroline’s Fantasy on it which was as if an elasticated version taking it further and beyond and her own Nocturne in B minor maintained the prevailing mood.

Less mellow in its grander gestures was her arrangement of the Finale from Brahms Symphony no. 4. It might have been the big centrepiece of the set but it didn’t entirely convince. Perhaps it lacked the orchestral sweep or coherence of the original in its imposing architecture but a return to the Berliners with Rattle should provide what was missing. Not that the Tyler arrangement or performance was any hardship but it possibly didn’t quite fit.

The Tyler Lullaby was a starlit night completed by the onrush of sleep’s lava – to borrow a vivid phrase from an old Roger McGough poem- and then to finish the very brief Grade 1 exam piece, Little Whale Explores the Calm Sea, showed a group of young pianists from the Prebendal School how it should be played because the composer must be the best person to show them.

It was a gorgeous and well-organized set played with delicacy and ‘poetry’ that covered a range of music. I’m left wondering about the glorious unfolding of the first movement of Brahms 4 and how that would work on piano. Poetry can be that which is ‘lost in translation’ but I’m never sure that poetry is a better thing than prose. They are both ‘writing’ and there’s a lot of misguidance to be found about what the difference is.

For the sake of £29, I’d be interested to find out what my name sounds like arr. Tyler but I’ll give some thought to buying such a piece for someone else.

David Green


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