J.S. Bach (1685-1750) Toccata in E minor BWV 914
F.J Haydn (1732-1809) Piano Sonata 47 h.o.b. 32 in B minor
F. Liszt (1811-1886) Deux Legends S. 175 – 1. St. François d’Assise: La prédication aux oiseaux S. 175; 2. St. François de Paule marchant sur les flots
Stephen Gott, piano
The splendid new Bechstein piano showroom in Manchester, the piano maker’s first purpose-built showroom in the United Kingdom since the Bechstein (now Wigmore) Hall was opened in London in 1901, boasts an attractive recital room with a C. Bechstein Model C 234 concert grand. The showroom hosts regular recitals and on Thursday 13 British-American pianist Stephen Gott performed music by Bach, Haydn and Liszt.
I have known Stephen for nearly 15 years now: we first met on a piano course hosted by our teacher, Penelope Roskell, where he gave a mature, thoughtful performance of Chopin’s Fourth Ballade, the memory of which has stayed with me ever since. Stephen is a very dedicated, hardworking young pianist, who started to learn the piano relatively late, in his teens. He studied at London’s Trinity-Laban and the University of Huddersfield, and is currently studying privately with Pascal Nemirovski.
His programme for his Bechstein recital displayed a nicely balanced range of repertoire from Bach to Liszt. The Bach Toccata in E minor was suitably serious in mood (E minor being perhaps Bach’s darkest, most serious key) and Stephen neatly portrayed the fantasia elements in the opening section, while the section second had energy and focus, with a good sense of forward motion.
The Haydn sonata was spirited, its elegant middle movement a pleasing contrast to the drama of the outer movements. But it was in the Liszt Legendes that Stephen really impressed and in which I felt he seemed most comfortable (and I know from conversations with him that he adores the music of Liszt, especially the more serious works such as these). From the fluttering, twittering birds of the first Legende (‘St Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds’) to the rolling, swelling waves of the second, Stephen played with sensitivity, expression and a clear understanding of not only the structure of these pieces but also the Biblical narratives which inspired Liszt. The second Legende was particularly rich in drama, the rise and fall of its narrative tension masterfully managed by Stephen, and providing an exciting, virtuosic close to this recital.