Review – Chichester Cathedral Lunchtime Concerts series: Emily Han, piano

Chichester Cathedral, 7 March

Happy Birthday, Maurice Ravel. He would have been 148 today, had he lived. He’s a popular choice for solo piano recitals in these parts. We did have his Jeux d’eau here last year when I wrote, I’ve never been a believer in synaesthesia, seeing colours when hearing music, not being sensitive enough to have it happen to me, but I got as close to it as I’m likely to with the yellow and white one is prompted to imagine in this.

I’m gratified in a way that I wrote very much the same in my notes today although I put ‘silvery’ and, really, one can hardly help but take the hint from the title. Emily Han made it sparkle, though, in its top-end trills and evocation of summer.

The main part of the programme had been Robert Schumann’s Fantasie, Op.17, another composer who does well for himself. Looking through my pile of recent programmes, we’ve had op.15 and 16 among other things in the last few months but not 17.

In three contrasting movements with very specific indications, the first has rumblings in the left hand over which the right feels for the melody as if in darkness before some accelerando that Robert presumably would call ‘Beschleunigung’ (acceleration) because he doesn’t seem to feel the need to use Italian.

Emily is finely nuanced, going from piano to forte and then a restful end before the second movement has a spring in its step, ‘energisch’ almost to the point of being an invigorating march but certainly celebratory in tone. It’s difficult not to try to take a shortcut and bolt on some Schumann biography to one’s interpretation when the ‘langsam’ could be redolent of moonlight on Lake Lucerne had not the poet Ludwig Rellstab said as much about a different piece nearly 200 years before me, but Robert Schumann never quite escapes the shadows as he seeks ‘mehr licht’. A gorgeously judged gentle ending by Emily sounds very much like the resolution Robert could conjure in his art but didn’t find in life.

In many ways, then, this was a ‘typical’ Chichester lunchtime concert if there could ever be said to be such a thing. Not ‘average’, but ‘customary’ and the sort of thing we regular attendees are used to. It’s only by being so great that each concert maintains a high standard. It’s why we keep going back.

It’s a very high standard. It’s typical but, oh, no, not average.

David Green

Image credit: Encore Musicians

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