Geoffrey Lancaster and Alan Hicks (fortepiano)
Eileen Joyce Studio, University of Western Australia
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Exquisite music offered in one of the world’s most beautiful performing spaces made this homage to Mozart an experience to cherish.
Sadly, Mozart’s music for piano duet is seldom heard in public. Rarer still are presentations of these works on the fortepiano, the instrument for which Mozart wrote. More’s the pity as these works contain some of the Salzburg Master’s finest ideas. And the chief joy of the recital, presented by Geoffrey Lancaster and Alan Hicks, was their account of the Sonata in F, K497.
As Lancaster pointed out, just about the only other piano music for four hands that could be considered in the same league as K497 is Schubert’s superb Fantasie in F minor.
In their account of the sonata, Lancaster and Hicks presented the work as if drawing on a shared source of inspiration in even the most minute rhythmic subtleties and tonal colourings. It was a performance of highest order, the players shaping to a myriad of subtleties like fine wine to a goblet.
I imagine that if, by some magical time travel, the shade of Mozart had hovered over the proceedings, I believe he’d have given this account of K497 a nod of satisfaction.
How very differently these works sound on the fortepiano, a sonic world radically different to that of the modern piano. Thankfully, with musicians of the calibre of Lancaster and Hicks, audiences can be transported back in time to a sound world quite unlike the one in which the modern piano dominates.
In performance at this sold-out event, there was clearly a high-level meeting of musical minds – and the aesthetic dividends of that endeavour were substantial. Stylistically impeccable, each movement unfolded at such a level that critical antennae, usually operating at full extension, were here quite lulled.
Lancaster, who is as versatile as he is gifted, not only wrote the excellent program notes but also shared some of his vast knowledge of the subject in comments from the keyboard.
A memorable program included not only two other sonatas (K358 and K521) but also the Fugue K401, the intricacies of which were expounded with consistent authority.
Indeed, the seeming ease and clarity with which some of the fugue’s most tricky contrapuntal ideas were expounded, were a model of what fine part-playing is all about.
Are these works, as played by this gifted duo, on compact disc? If not, I do hope that measures are in place to preserve this magical offering.
Feather-light cupcakes, ribbon sandwiches and other dainties as well as liquid refreshment were on offer at interval. The only reservation about this otherwise memorable experience concerns the state of the glass wall of the studio which clearly needs cleaning to allow concertgoers an unfettered view of a splendid botanical vista.
Monies raised by this event are devoted to RSMC scholarships for gifted young musicians.