Jonathan Powell

Albumblatt; Die Flur der Engel; Arabeske; Klavierstück; Schmetterlingsgesichten; Ballade
Variationen und Tripelfuge über ein eigenes Thema
Eine melodische-harmonische Studie
Strauss, trans. Sorabji
Salome – Final Scene

Jonathan Powell (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 25 January, 2008
Venue: Bauer & Hieber, 48 Great Marlborough Street, London W1

Recitals of such repertoire are rare. And the location was unusual, a basement room in a publisher’s London base (an establishment better known as Schott, I suspect).

Jonathan PowellJonathan Powell is a great champion of the rare – not a passing fancy, for he played here with devotion and significant preparation, his Steinway ‘baby grand’ lucid and powerful but not overpowering in the intimate and dry surroundings. One can see into the shop above; one Evgeny Kissin was spied – one imagines he could hear Powell’s recital. If so, was he intrigued by the pieces being played?

Joseph Marx (1882-1964) always seems to come up trumps – and should be better known, although there are some recordings of his music that suggest further exploration is needed. Powell made a strong case for the piano music, its salon charm, surprises, Brahmsian debt and heightened, Scriabinesque atmosphere. Felix Petyrek (1892-1951) also seems a composer to get to know; his Variations and Triple Fugue proved ingenious and thrilling cumulative.

Franz Schmidt’s only piece for piano/two hands is a charming Romanze (there are pieces for Paul Wittgenstein’s left-hand) and was well-partnered by Ludwig Ernst Uray’s miniature that seems cast in ‘popular’ style.

This 75-minute recital ended with Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji’s 1947 transcription of the ‘Final Scene’ of Strauss’s “Salome”. Powell – a master of Sorabji’s 4-hour-plus Opus Clavicembalisticum – played this singular transformation quite marvellously. How well Sorabji preserves Strauss’s motifs and how accomplished is his ‘banishing’ of the voice and orchestra; a terrific sense of narrative was achieved here as Powell digested the swirl of notes to compelling effect.

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