Joanna MacGregor at City of London School

French Suite in G, BWV816
Four Mazurkas, Op.30 – in C minor, in B minor, in D flat, in C sharp minor
Excursions, Op.20
Tangos: Tanguedia; Buenos Aires Hora Cero; Milonga del Angel; Libertango [arr. MacGregor]

Joanna MacGregor (piano)

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 11 May, 2011
Venue: Great Hall, City of London School, London EC4

Joanna MacGregor. Photograph: www.warnerclassicsandjazz.comThis recital inaugurated City of London School’s new Steinway Model D piano. Earlier in the day Joanna MacGregor had given a masterclass, which was relaxed, informative and greatly appreciated by the lucky three boys who took part, as well as the audience; we all learnt something.

The evening recital was designed to show off the piano’s capabilities. Evident immediately was its brightness: this is a vivid instrument, which brought clarity to MacGregor’s poised playing of the Bach. Her obvious comfort with this composer meant that her use of rubato felt entirely natural, with especial affinity for the sublime ‘Sarabande’. The closing ‘Gigue’ found MacGregor in her element: vigorous and fun. The Chopin Mazurkas demonstrated the instrument’s dynamic range, with the flowing B minor’s rippling waves of sound appositely judged, though the D flat was delivered in strangely stentorian fashion. Samuel Barber’s Excursions found MacGregor’s pianism at its best: contemplative in the third movement and humour in the finale. MacGregor spoke passionately between the works, and was especially fascinating talking about Ástor Piazzolla (1921-1992), whose tango group she had lots of pleasure with. On more than one occasion she reached into the piano to pluck at the strings: too often a gimmick with no obvious necessity, but here the effect on the played notes was shimmering and other-worldly.

A new piano needs to relax: with a variable climate, and such a young instrument as this, the one thing that is needed is time. In a year or two, no doubt, the sound will be warmer without any loss to detail.

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