Once again, thanks to the continuing generosity of the Bradley family, we had the opportunity last Saturday of hearing a pianist of international repute in the Alington Hall. This annual event is keenly anticipated and it was a pleasure to welcome back Peter Donohoe for what was a substantial programme of 19th and 20th century music. With his long silver hair and beard, Donohoe looks every inch the popular image of a classical pianist, but any sense of remoteness, of other-worldliness, was dispelled in his brief and helpful introduction to the evening. A bond between performer and audience was established as he guided us through his choice of pieces, each the composer’s Opus 1, and instructively, but not didactically, he invited us to see the music in the light of subsequent development. His powerful, lucid playing did the rest.
In the Tchaikovsky, a fearsome upward surge in the left hand was just one example of his mastery of detail and it was fascinating to hear the fundamentally Romantic Prokofiev of 1910 hinting at astringency to come. Likewise, in Bartok’s “Rhapsody”, a naïve folk-tune would be given a sardonic twist, as if the composer was dissociating himself from what had gone before.
What ferment there was in European music in those days and how searchingly did this thought-provoking recital explore the several strands. Berg’s Sonata was a vivid example of a composer at the cross-roads, like Prokofiev, giving us pointers to the direction he would take. Even a century later, it still appears “wrong” to the ears of many, but our guest was a persuasive advocate.
The final work, the C major sonata by Brahms, made a more familiar sound – and what a sound when in the hands of Peter Donohoe. However loud, however complex the music, he never lost sight of the lyrical thread and the audience responded ecstatically to the triumphant conclusion.