Peter Donohoe, at Birmingham Conservatoire
The Birmingham International Piano Academy consistently attracts pianists of world stature to perform and give masterclasses during a lively last week in July at Birmingham Conservatoire.
And ever-present among those is Peter Donohoe, loyal to his West Midlands base and to the Conservatoire of which he is vice-president.
His recital on Saturday was typically generous, but delivered at too high a level of volume on a supercharged Yamaha grand in the intimate confines of the Recital Hall (this enterprising event deserves the chance to accommodate a larger audience in the Adrian Boult Hall).
Schubert’s late A major Sonata was delivered with a single thread of thought underlying its four movements, making satisfying sense of the music’s often gnomic utterances. There were some spectacular colourings from the sustaining pedal and some well-judged pauses and resumptions in this reading which convincingly combined assertiveness with fleetness.
In a wide-ranging repertoire, perhaps Donohoe’s Brahms is the most rewarding. His accounts of the Op.119 pieces here (and a further Intermezzo as an encore) were subtle in their range of attack and response to textures, and still haunt the memory.
Virile delivery of Preludes and Fugues from Book Two of Bach’s ”48” showed Donohoe risk-taking and successful, but a similarly no-holds-barred approach to Beethoven’s mighty Hammerklavier Sonata proved less convincing. The opening movement, repeats and all, flew by, impatient and clattery, with little sense of the music’s epic aspiration.
It was only in the inward-looking adagio sostenuto that Donohoe’s capacity to reveal loving detail and cumulative expressiveness at last came to the forefront, The concluding fugue was breathtaking.