George Harliono, piano
January 31 2022
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
George Harliono: a name we shall be hearing much more of in the future
For anyone who loves fine piano playing this has been quite a week in Nottingham: Stephen Hough at Lakeside, Benjamin Grosvenor at the NTU Hall, Sunwook Kim at the Royal Concert Hall. And last – but definitely not least – George Harliono again at the RCH. George is only 20 years old and still a student at the Royal College of Music but he has a very impressive CV, has lots of recitals and concerto performances lined up and is rubbing shoulders with the great and the good of the musical world. He’s also been doing this for some time, as his prodigious talents have been applauded ever since his first solo recital at the age of 9 and his concerto debut at 12. There’s even a YouTube video of the 11-year-old George giving an exhilarating, highly virtuosic performance of Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata at a train station.
Despite arriving at the end of a week of phenomenal piano-playing in the city, there was absolutely nothing of an anti-climax about his appearance at the latest Sunday Morning Piano recital. And there was nothing safe or predictable about his choice of repertoire either. There were plenty of pianistic fireworks but the overwhelming impression was of total control and immense elegance throughout. Although he admitted that playing in a concert hall at 11.00am on a Sunday morning was not really his sort of thing, he could hardly have made a more stylish impression as he walked onto the stage.
He started with Wilhelm Kempff”s arrangement of the Siciliano from Bach’s G minor Flute Sonata with its haunting melody, its touching restraint and effortless transparency.
Next came Prokofiev’s 2nd Piano Sonata, a work which must have shocked its audience back in 1913 when the composer wrote it. In fact, George’s performance conveyed some of the mischievous delight that Prokofiev must have taken in creating something so impetuous and surprising. After a relatively conventional opening the Sonata quickly moves into a strange dissonant world where unexpected ideas come clashing together. The brief Scherzo was dazzling, the Andante darkly brooding and the Finale scintillating and sparkling.
The rest of the programme further demonstrated George’s range and versatility. Brahms’ Intermezzo in A saw him at his most restrained and subtle; Ravel’s Une Barque sur l’Océan showed what a master of tonal colour he is; Franz Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole proved that he can handle the most fearsomely difficult music with apparent ease. Anyone lucky enough to be sitting close enough to watch George’s hands will have been struck by their expressiveness, even though for much of the Liszt they were blurred amid torrents of notes.
There just had to be an encore after all that. And Liszt’s arrangement of Schubert’s Ständchen was an excellent choice to end George Harliono’s recital. Remember the name: we’ll be hearing much more of it from now on.
George Harliono, in the Sunday Piano Series at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall