What a relief from ‘the thunderers’ this pianist gave us with the charming choice of a blithe Schubert sonata, the one in A major D 664. The almost cloudless Allegro moderato was played with beguiling joy and innocence. The Andante could have been a little more heartfelt but then I am an unashamed sentimentalist. The concluding sunny and uncomplicated Allegro is such a lovely and lyrical song. My word it was a relief to hear glorious Schubert after all the virtuosic barnstorming….important though it seems to be in competitions these days
He concluded with a dramatic contrast, a magnificent account of the Brahms Paganini Variations. This was a truly breathtaking performance in terms of tone, sonority, power and contrast of character within the various variations. Really a quite fabulous account of one of the most difficult works in the keyboard literature and one of the finest I have heard for many years. His sense of distances on the keyboard was acutely accurate which meant in the wildest and most terrifying leaps he landed directly on the note or notes which gave them an acuteness and immediacy of attack that was stunning in the realized sound. Shura Cherkassky also practiced distances in silence for the same reason. In massive chords each finger was weighted correctly in the harmonic balance. A true individualist of tremendous talent and surely a contender for a prize here.