Leslie Howard Peaks

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Leslie Howard Peaks                                                           with the amount of con-          Howard once again, wishing him and all
                                                                              centration required to pour      our readers the compliments of the season
    he prize for the performance                                              out this almost super-           and a happy and prosperous New Year.
T   of the year should surely be
awarded to Leslie Howard for his
                                                                              human music? Opus 106 is
                                                                              the Mount Everest of piano
                                                                                                               John Amis

playing of Beethoven’s Hammer-                                                music; very few pianists
klavier Sonata Opus 106 at                                                    can achieve the perfection       Artur Pizarro
Wigmore Hall on November 8.                                                   that Howard exposed for          The Wigmore Hall
Intellectually, physically, virtuos-                                          us. The great Schnabel
ically and emotionally, this was a                                            played the work very seld-            lbéniz subtitled his Ibéria sequence ‘12
towering performance. Recently,
a critic called Opus106 ‘grim’, but
                                                                              om and went into retreat
                                                                              for several weeks before a
                                                                                                               A     new impressions in four books’. They
                                                                                                               remain the most powerful and attractive of
that must be a mishearing or                                                  performance. Even the            his many pieces, and it is surprising how
misreading – monumental, vision-                                              Diabelli Variations seem an      seldom they are heard together. Comp-
ary, mind-blowing, ear-stretching – yes –                     easier peak to climb (the Matterhorn,            osed in 1906-08, Artur Pizarro gave a
but grim? Surely not. The sheer beauty of                     perhaps?) – but our intrepid Antipodean          complete performance on 12 November
the slow movement is enough to deny                           took Opus 106 in his stride.                     to mark the centenary of their publication.
that; it seemed in the Wigmore Hall to go                         Leslie Howard is an amazing performer.       These dozen items have more intuition
on for ever, and one wished it would,                         He has played and recorded every scrap           than intellect. more spirit that knowledge,
music that seems at times to pre-echo                         of Liszt’s piano music and, like Liszt, he       and yet the pianist showed them, in their
Chopin. There is aggression in the bittern-                   seems to have a tolerance and even a             rhythmicised lyricism, to be as often
ess of the Scherzo, but it is offset by the                   relish for second-rate stuff. Otherwise, he      marked by deeply chaste sorrow as by
virility of the opening Allegro and the                       surely would not have followed the Hamm-         earthy tunefulness.
colossus that is the final fugue, a fugue                     erklavier with the third, published post-            The sheer beauty of tone which Pizarro
that pounds our ears as if we are in some                     humously, volume of Liszt’s Anées de             drew from his Yamaha CF111S was absol-
engine-room of the mind, pistons and                          Pélérinage. In the middle of that set comes      utely consistent in character while being
cylinders crashing away in perfect synch-                     The Fountains of the Villa d’Este, that          constantly va
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