REVIEW: Stephen McIntyre Piano Recital – by Neville Cohn

Pianist’s tale of two recitals

Reviewed by Neville Cohn
on the 14th May 2014
for the West Australian
3 stars
Review of UWA’s Keyed Up Piano Recital Series featuring Stephen McIntyre
Callaway Auditorium

It might have been two entirely different recitals: the one before the interval, altogether worthy of celebration – and the one after intermission which lacked the near-perfection that made the pre-interval offering such a satisfying listening experience.

Stephen McIntyre, long considered one of Australia’s leading musicians, was almost beyond criticism in a delightful curtain-raiser. Galuppi’s miniature, 3-movement Sonata in C, its intricacies offered like a sonic version of finely intertwined filigree silver.

The high point of this recital in UWA’s Keyed-Up series was an account of Schubert’s Three Piano Pieces, a dull title for a superb sonic triptych which, like so much of the composer’s later works, was only discovered after Schubert’s tragically early death at the age of 31. This was fertile fare for McIntyre who revealed with rare understanding the essence of this often- haunting music, tinged as it is with melancholy. It was the highpoint of the recital.

During his last months, although dogged by serious illness, Schubert produced a stream of masterpieces for the piano and one of the greatest of these – the vast Sonata in B flat, D960 – took up the entire second half of the program.

Much of the work is informed by an otherworldly remoteness – a leave-taking of life, if you will – and it is only those such as McIntyre, who have devoted a lifetime to consideration of these profound masterpieces, who are able to reveal their secrets.

I especially admired McIntyre’s account of the slow movement as, like a master guide, he took the audience on a journey into the composer’s uniquely subtle sound world. But focus blurred in the opening movement with numbers of wrong notes – and stumbles and showers of ear-grating notational approximations took the gloss off the finale and left it in disarray.

Also on the program were Chopin’s Berceuse and the great Scherzo in B flat minor through which McIntyre romped with untroubled ease, playing on UWA’s superb Fazioli concert grand piano.