Teo Gheorghiu, piano
January 27 2019
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
Sensitive, virtuosic, atmospheric playing from a young, cosmopolitan pianist
It’s not surprising that Teo Gheorghiu is a rather special pianist. His father is Romanian, his mother Canadian; he was born in Switzerland and then studied in London and Philadelphia. And in 2004, at the age of only 12 he starred in a film called Vitus, winning an award for best male debut. So he can’t be short of life-experiences to underpin his music-making.
However, he wasn’t the only star on stage on Sunday morning. The Royal Concert Hall took delivery of its new, very shiny Steinway last week and Teo was the first to play a solo recital on it, after its concerto baptism on Friday. Both Teo and piano impressed the enthusiastic audience.
It was a well-planned programme, starting with one of the great virtuoso showpieces, the Romanian Rhapsody No 1 by George Enescu. It started simply enough with a simple folk tune, but then rhythms got wilder and fistfuls of notes cascaded from the stage. Teo’s Romanian heritage was there for everyone to hear: the accent authentic, the colours rich and vibrant.
Then came a series of Debussy Preludes framed by the famous Clair de Lune and La plus que lente. Teo’s colour palette was as subtle as it was wide, evoking miniature sound-worlds: dead leaves, dancers from ancient Greece, rag-time minstrels, wintry footsteps or far-away places and their sounds, scents and atmospheric landscapes. The Prelude inspired by a postcard of the Moorish ‘Gate of Wine’ was particularly vivid with Teo seeming to capture two states of mind simultaneously – as sudden explosions of sound erupted into the midst of quiet, contemplative passages.
Ravel’s La Valse is a vivid evocation of the spirit of the Viennese waltz – but it’s so much more than that. Ravel wrote of its spookier side: ‘the mad whirl of some fantastic and fateful carousel’. Teo seemed completely immersed in its strangely exhilarating world – until he lost his bearings towards the end. No matter: he bounced back for an Albeniz encore (Sevilla) and thunderous applause.
Teo Gheorghiu (piano) in Nottingham’s Sunday Morning Piano Series at the Royal Concert Hall