This Wigmore Hall recital celebrated Piers Lane’s sixtieth birthday, to the date. The choice of repertoire seemed a little odd until we discovered Lane had a not too distant relationship with Dame Myra Hess through his teacher Yonty Solomon being one of her pupils. Lane chose works by composers that recreated part of her first National Gallery programme in 1939: Scarlatti, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin, adding Rachmaninov’s half-hour Chopin Variations, in many ways the most successful work of the evening.
Lane opened with two Scarlatti Sonatas, the melancholy B-minor doing little for the birthday-party spirit, whereas the one in G was much more as we expect from this early wizard of the keyboard, full of skittering runs and darting arpeggios. Both received sympathetic performances. To follow was a Myra Hess speciality, J. S. Bach and two Preludes and Fugues; both were heard in entrancing style from Lane.
After such sweet-meat beginnings came the altogether bigger challenge of mid-career Beethoven, the ‘Appassionata’ Sonata. It shares certain similarities in content with the Fifth Symphony not least the rhythm in the bass heard early on. Lane tackled the challenge of a work that stands for extreme contrasts with an open-hearted ferocity coupled with delicacy. Each movement was portrayed as an experience of surprises, and Lane was close to elemental wildness of the Finale, if a little wearing despite his virtuosity being very much at the service of the composer.
An interval was called for after such an attack on our nervous systems; no better way to seek recovery than the two beautiful Opus 27 Nocturnes by Chopin. It was here that I realised how expressive Lane can be in truly romantic music. Such style produces a slightly drawn-out sound, less literal than how many tackle this repertoire. Both were wonderfully sculptured and held us enraptured.
It was then a pleasure to experience Lane in a work that clearly means a lot to him, the wonderful Chopin Variations by Rachmaninov. Here I detected the true Lane. He dazzled us throughout not only with his virtuoso response but also with the poetry he found in the quieter variants. The audience rose as one after the ethereal close to acclaim Lane who responded with encores in the shape of Chopin’s C-sharp minor Waltz (Opus 64/2) and a Lane party-piece, the laugh-a-minute Parody on Beethoven by Dudley Moore.