Independent Review

This is an interesting recital of mainly late compositions by Liszt and Beethoven, together with a work by the pianist himself.

Panayiotis is a Greek pianist in his mid twenties who has studied under Murray McLachlan. The three Liszt pieces with which he opens his programme are works in which the composer ‘threw a lance into the future’, as he himself put it. The harmonies are often stark and tonality is very tenuous. The second of them depicts a funeral gondola in Venice, written a week before Wagner, who was staying in that city with Liszt, died and was given such a funeral. The atmosphere of the piece is well captured by the pianist, as is that of the third piece, ‘evil star’. Both are played rather more quickly than Liszt indicates, and this is to my mind an improvement in ‘evil star’, but perhaps the gondola could have made slightly slower progress. Nuages Gris felt just right, and a fourth Liszt piece, ‘ Valée d’Obermann’ from his youthful ‘ Années de pèlerinage ‘ was a tour de force .

The Beethoven Sonata in E major op. 109 commences with a capricious theme based on the finale of op. 79, but soon breaks into a florid and expressive adagio. This dichotomy continues through the movement and is well handled by Panayiotis. The savage second movement follows without a break. The finale is an exquisite set of variations on a simple but profound theme which comes to a climax through a series of tricky accompanying trills. Panayiotis shows he is equal to the challenge.

I must admit that much modern piano music leaves me cold. While Panayiotis’ Tetractys was at least texturally interesting, I would never have guessed that it was based on a tone row derived from Liszt’s Nuages Gris , or that mathematical sets and Venn diagrams were used to organise the harmonic fields. The composer states that there is an ‘arithmetical manipulation of sound in the music, but never a mathematical one’. And I in my ignorance thought that arithmetic was a form of maths! I seemed to hear the ‘aerial bombings’ referred to by the composer, but I keep reminding myself of a quotation from Mozart which Elgar always kept on his desk while composing, to the effect that music must primarily be a thing of beauty.

I am afraid that my reactionary stance perhaps does not do justice to these short pieces, but the recording as a whole is always interesting, well played and well worth hearing. The programme notes by the pianist are erudite and fascinating, and the recording as usual from this small company is satisfying.

—David Rothery