March 8 2020
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
Tom Poster’s combination of playing, programming and presentation made for an outstanding recital
It isn’t at all uncommon to hear uncommonly good piano-playing at the Royal Concert Hall on Sunday mornings. But what made Tom Poster’s recital special wasn’t ‘just’ the reputation which preceded him (his wide repertoire, effortless virtuosity and – especially – his vast palette of tonal colours) but the way he devised, shaped and presented his hour-long programme.
His theme was the musical homage, one composer paying tribute to another as a source of inspiration. The starting point was Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood, thirteen glimpses of a child’s world from an adult perspective, each not only atmospheric and nostalgic but also more complex, suggesting something of the composer’s far from idyllic early years.
Tom’s ingenious sequence of music then travelled to Schumann’s wife and muse Clara, whose Nocturne (written when she was only 15) pays homage to Chopin. Then came the calm simplicity of Contemplation by Cheryl Frances-Hoad which nods in the direction of Edvard Grieg who was in turn represented by his Nocturne and by his Homage to Chopin.
And to end the programme with a satisfying sense of inevitability came Chopin himself and his Funeral March Sonata, a work which Schumann had once rudely described as ‘four of Chopin’s maddest children under the same roof’ as each of the four movements makes such extravagant demands, each seeming to diverge from the others rather than peacefully co-existing. Perhaps if Schumann had heard Tom Poster he would have changed his mind as in his hands the music acquired an organic inevitability.
For an encore Tom played his own transcription of Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me, which instead of seeming to come from an entirely different musical world actually sat well with the rest of the programme. And the features of the playing were the same: poetic sensibility, beautifully moulded phrases, dazzling virtuosity and some of the most delightful, finely nuanced sounds ever to be coaxed from the Royal Concert Hall’s Steinway.
Tom Poster in the Royal Concert Hall’s Sunday Morning Piano Series