Belfast Telegraph

A night of Brahms and Liszt with Barry Douglas

Last night's piano recital was introduced by Radio 3's Sean Rafferty, who called Barry Douglas a "titan of the keyboard". He lived up to his billing.

The programme featured a range of Brahms and Liszt works. Not Cockney slang, as Sean joked, just code for some of the best Romantic music ever written for the piano.

The first half opened with a sequence of Brahms' Capriccios and Intermezzos or fast and slow pieces with plenty of mood and flashiness. Maybe the best known is the Intermezzo op 117 no 1, which has an instantly recognisable mellow melody and plenty of melancholy. Brahms described it as "lullabies for my sorrows" and Barry Douglas handled the wandering tune with exquisite dexterity.

The mood shifted totally with Brahms' Capriccio Op 116 no 7, a stormy piece in D minor.

We didn't applaud during the five Brahms pieces which were presented as a unit of his music, before we got into the piano pyrotechnics of Brahms' composing rival, Liszt.

Stylistically, we entered a different world. His piece, After Reading Dante, contained the writer's hellish circles, a little glimpse of heaven and the sort of modern-sounding writing that suited Barry Douglas' passionate technique.

In the second half, we had more Brahms, including the superb Variations. They went in a trice, to be followed by a sweeping, rhythmic fugue.

Clandeboye's courtyard was darkening and some magic was about.

Incredibly, it's 25 years since Barry Douglas won the Tchaikowsky prize and he just keeps getting better.

Jane Hardy

Belfast Telegraph

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