Pianist Edmund Battersby at the National Concert Hall 1st August 2014
As part of an eventful and exciting programme of events, the second Dublin International Piano Festival and Summer Academy brings the talents of acclaimed pianist Edmund Battersby to the National Concert Hall. An eloquently delivered introduction by the artistic director of the proceedings, Archie Chen, contextualizes this afternoon’s concert. His passion for the cultivation of pianistic excellence in Ireland, as demonstrated in the work carried out by both himself and Rhona Gouldson at the Piano Academy of Ireland, comes full circle as Chen’s own teacher, whom he describes as “a fantastic pedagogue”, delights today’s gathering with a musical cocktail flavoured by the works of Beethoven, Ravel and Chopin.
Pianists, enthusiastic students, and lovers of piano music bedeck the seats of the John Field Room. Heartfelt applause guides Battersby to the platform for his performance of Beethoven’s sonata in B flat major (1800). From the opening 6 notes, Battersby’s commanding facility of tone encapsulates his listeners. Every inch of the score is etched across his face as he moves with elegance through the animated Allegro con brio. Battersby’s seamless blending of tone between registers is stunning. As he crouches inwards during the pianissimo moments, we too are drawn into the intimacy of his stylistic interpretation.
The ravishing beauty of the second movement is portrayed with sensitivity. Battersby’s control of the repeated block chords of the left hand sections is admirable, whilst his flawless lyrical capabilities contribute to an absolutely hypnotic performance. Battersby’s rendition of the Menuetto and Rondo is equally wonderful. His masterful weighting of scalic runs, and overall dexterity, imbues the performance with a sense of authority reflective of his innate understanding of Beethoven’s music.
Following rousing applause, Battersby embarks upon Ravel’s atmospheric Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911). Oftentimes, the difficulty in playing such music lies in locating the hermeneutic compromise between emotional expression and stylistic restraint. Battersby manages to overcome this through his knowledgeable handling of the piano’s diverse tonal palate. His choice of tempi is well informed, while the contrasts between physical vigour and sentiment are convincingly refined.
Without pause, Battersby launches straight into Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F minor (1842, rev. 1843). His execution of this technically challenging work is impressive. Each phrase is contoured with pure precision. Contrapuntal passages interweave with mathematical security. The final descending triplets and fortissimo chords are met with rapturous appreciation. A standing ovation leads to a beautiful encore of one of Chopin’s final works, his Nocturne in E major (1846). Battersby’s performance is undoubtedly musical poetry in motion.
If this is a reflection of what the Dublin International Piano Festival has to offer, then the future is looking very bright for our young pianists.
Beethoven: Sonata in B flat major, No. 11, Op. 22e
Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales
Chopin: Ballade in F minor No. 4, Op. 52