With long-established concert clubs despairing on all sides, the sheer bullishness of the Sutton Coldfield Philharmonic Society is an inspiration. This 83-year old society hasn’t scaled back its activities; in fact, its ambitions seem to have grown. With next season promising appearances by both Steven Osborne and Stephen Hough, now would be a good time to join up.
Meanwhile, the society promotes consistently imaginative concerts. The young British pianist Alasdair Beatson comes with impressive credentials, and on the strength of this recital, he certainly doesn’t lack ideas. The programme was fascinating: Mozart’s Sonata K.332, miniatures by Fauré, Poulenc and Ravel, and Schubert’s ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy – with three of Earl Wild’s flamboyant Gershwin transcriptions as a sort of semi-official encore.
“Objective” might be one way to characterise Beatson’s playing. Lines are clearly, sometimes percussively, picked out. A controlled sensuality seemed to lie beneath the brilliant surface. In the Schubert, Beatson would voice a chord with sudden sonorous warmth, before chopping the phrase abruptly to a halt. In the Mozart, he played up the music’s quirks – accelerating to the ends of phrases before pulling up with a start.
It could be off-putting, (and it wasn’t helped by Beatson’s habit of tapping his foot). Yet in the Ravel ‘Sonatine’, and (above all) three Fauré preludes, he let the music breathe, and the results were genuinely beautiful. Better a performance with real individuality than yet another CD-ready read-through; and an enthusiastic audience seemed to agree. It was anything but routine.