Advance publicity stated that there had been an earlier performance of the Grieg piano concerto in the Tuesday lunchtime series – and that I had reviewed it. How could I have forgotten? In fact, the confusion was not mine, the work in question, still fresh in the memory, being by Beethoven.
Nor am I likely to forget the impact of this, the final concert of the season.
Those who have already heard Galin Ganchev play will have been prepared for his sure-fingered command of the notes, though it remains a thing of wonder, but to the majority of the larger than usual audience, the first encounter with this prodigious talent was overwhelming. From first to last, this was an awesome demonstration of the power of music, for it is Galin’s way to shift the emphasis to what he is playing, and not that he is playing it. Devoid of extraneous gesture, his poise at the keyboard is reminiscent of the great Artur Rubinstein, and like Rubinstein, he played a Chopin encore as if he had just composed it.
In his concerto, Grieg had a wonderful tale to tell, and in Galin Ganchev, we have an inspiring narrator, whose intuitive sense of where he is and where he is going at any moment leads to climaxes which are beautifully anticipated and gloriously brought off. Paradoxically, the greater the difficulty, the more he appears to be at ease, his hands floating across the keys with seemingly effortless precision. His reserves of power are phenomenal, too, and just when one thinks that he has reached full volume, he finds another level and floods the hall with sound.
And what of the orchestra? Well, there wasn’t one. In its place was John Moore, playing the second part of a two-piano version, a task to which this boundlessly resourceful musician proved more than equal. It is not easy to reproduce on a percussive instrument the sustained lines composed for strings and wind, but John had given much thought to matching the orchestral colours as best he could, and the result was a credit to both the arranger and the exponent. Such skilful and sympathetic accompaniment justifies this format, in spite of its limitations.
The reception at the end was rapturous, and as the soloist sat down to give an encore, it briefly crossed my mind that anti-climax might follow. No danger of that, however, for the choice and the execution of Chopin’s “Winter Wind” Etude only added lustre to the occasion.
This young artist clearly loves his music and it is his and our good fortune that he is blessed with the means of bringing it to life in the way he does. He plays for us, not at us, and seasoned concert-goers recognised something very special in last Tuesday’s offering.
There will be another chance to hear the concerto at the St. Cecilia concerts in November, this time with the School orchestra, but if that is not convenient, Galin is playing it this summer in his native Bulgaria. Worth considering.