“Wish me luck!” pianist Juliet Allen urged the audience as she embarked on Liszt’s fiendishly difficult operatic paraphrase on the waltz from Gounod’s Faust. Sometimes it seemed like negotiating hairpin bends in a Toyota with the accelerator stuck.
But she steered her way skilfully through Liszt’s pianistic chicanes, as he thematically transforms love music into a demonic dance, until we arrived, somewhat breathlessly, at a thunderous conclusion.
It was the climax of the first half of a recital which began with Haydn’s 50th piano sonata, a genial work where in the opening allegro he plays hunt-the-theme up and down the keyboard. Haydn’s earthy humour sounded just a little prim. The performance of Grieg’s Holberg Suite was splendid, both its mournful romanticism and jolly folksiness winningly played.
She was joined by CBSO cellist Helen Edgar for Rachmaninov’s sonata Op.19. Balancing piano and cello is notoriously difficult and sometimes the latter was swamped in the more vigorous passages but there was ample opportunity for the cellist to relish Rachmaninov’s melancholic melodies in the slow movement.
The allegro scherzando second movement was outstanding, its sardonic humour and sinister flavour well characterized.