I doubt if Cameron Carpenter will hurry back to Birmingham. On arriving at the city’s airport from Germany the young American organist was held for seven hours and then bundled off to Munich by immigration officials who misunderstood the legislation for visiting performing artists.
He finally arrived back after a round trip of 26 hours. With that, and derisory ticket sales, most artists would have cancelled. Carpenter commendably didn’t despite a wrecked rehearsal schedule which forced him to omit his transcription of The Lark Ascending and the UK premiere of his own Music for an Imaginary Film.
What we did hear was mightily impressive. His transcription of Mozart’s Piano Sonata K.284 was dazzling, the opening movement a tour-de-force with Carpenter’s glittery Cuban-heeled boots whizzing over the pedals, as nimble as a Strictly Come Dancing professional.
The andante was a harmoniemusik for the organ’s wind register, the finale’s variations a dozen delightful character sketches using every resource of the instrument.
He can play straight, Bach’s powerful and austere Trio Sonata in G major, and fancy, Dupre’s colourful Variations sur un Noel and its magical transformations, with equal aplomb. He confessed reservations about his transcription of Scriabin’s fourth piano sonata. He needn’t have. It captured the essence of the composer’s music with its mixture of erotic and religious longing and protracted resolution. His three extemporizations on original themes, especially the second with its big hearted expansive Copland-like melody, were varied and enjoyable. I hope we see him again under more favourable circumstances.