Bach Brandendurg Concerto No.3
Vivaldi “Spring” from the Four Seasons
Bach Piano Concerto in D major
Corelli Concerto Grosso Op.6 No.2
Bach Piano Concerto in F minor
Vivaldi Concerto for 4 Violins
English Chamber Orchestra
Stephanie Gonley violin/director
Nick van Bloss piano
I have been hearing the critics making a lot of noise about Nick Van Bloss’s Goldberg Variations recording and to be given the chance to see him play live on my birthday it made it a wonderful treat.
Having done my rudimentary research on the Cliffs Pavilion I quite liked what I read. This was not to be my first ever visit to the venue but to the town itself. On entry it all seemed rather friendly and surely less standoffish than the audience of John Smith’s Sq last week. Also an interesting range of ages, coming to a concert while it’s beautifully sunny outside and by the water has to be applauded! As I sat down there was a mixture of excitement and fear, as I had purposefully avoided being exposed to Nick’s playing up to that stage, and since his two concerti were the star of the show, my brain was asking questions on what if I didn’t like his touch or thought his playing was too decorous and dull (like much of Bach tends to be, and the main reason I avoid him quite frequently).
The Orchestra made a good start with the Bach Brandenburg Concerto N3 and Stefanie led Spring from the Four Seasons with undeniable passion (to the point that she lost a string in the process!). Then the grand appeared and I took a sharp intake of breath…and started over-analysing while the sound of Berenboim’s piano was whirling in my head. In the D major concerto the opening movement was beautifully sculpted and surely living up to the Allegro demanded by the composer. I’ll attribute a couple of flaws to nerves but they were quickly forgotten due to the richness of the sound and the involved playing. Unlike the rather static and hollow sound that Barenboim gave us the other night, Nick Van Bloss’s playing was much more warm and emotional. When the Adagio of the second movement came, it was a true tour de force, delicate but alert, lyrical but not ornamental and above all it felt very personal. I’m afraid to say from that point on I felt more like a fan than a member of the audience trying to be overtly critical. The same kind of reaction Martha Argerich causes every time, I really don’t care if all the notes are in the right place, as what you get from her is a search for truth and individuality that is lacking so much in the world of the piano virtuoso. The concerto concluded beautifully with the Allegro in a fiery very much forceful touch, a refreshing change from all the pianists that tend to treat Bach as a museum piece where the touch is uniform and the dynamics of the modern concert grand are not utilised. Nick used all the expressive power of the piano backed by its capabilities to provide a much harder sound than a harpsichord. The approach was very welcome and indeed was greeted by an extremely happy audience.
The second half and well lubricated with a G&T, we started with a vibrant rendition of the Corelli which was leading to the second Bach Concerto. It started with a beautiful display of prowess and great articulation of the individual phrases but at the same time with a great sense of control. But again for me the Largo was where his playing turned more delicate and emotional; I can’t imagine that anyone in the auditorium would fail to be touched by such wonderful playing and the obvious outpouring of emotion. The final movement again was a very lively take on the Presto with a freshness that made old Bach seem much more modern. The audience howled in appreciation which was well earned.
The show closed with the Vivaldi concerto and it was rather lovely, but we all knew that the concert had finished when the last bars of the Bach concerto had sounded.
I will surely be looking forward to hearing Nick again live soon and maybe even I’d love him to tackle some later repertoire from his monogrammed piano stool (here is a picture posted by the man himself! ). With his very powerful sound I can imagine what joys he can offer with some Rachmaninoff. This was surely one of the greatest birthday presents I’ve ever received. And it was well worth the two hour drive to be there. Totally against all the dismayed reactions I got about going to Southend-on-Sea, I got the impression of a place very much alive in sharp contrast to other towns further down the South coast (Bexhill-on-Sea I’m pointing at you!).