Paul Lewis Plays Schubert At The Sheldonian

The Sheldonian Theatre

The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford (picture by Xavier de Jaureguiberry)

Last Friday (17/6/11) saw the return of Paul Lewis to the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford. His last appearance featured the Schubert song cycle ‘Die schöne Müllerin’ with the tenor Mark Padmore. This week saw Lewis play a selection of Schubert’s solo piano pieces, which included, the twelve waltzes (D145), four impromptus (D899), the Hungarian melody in B minor (D817) and Piano Sonata No.18 in G major (D894).

Paul Lewis is already recognised as one of the leading pianists of his generation. After a program of education that has included private studies with Alfred Brendel, he has gone on to receive many accolades for his performances and recordings. This weeks program of Schubert pieces was the perfect illustration of why he has received such positive feedback. What he offered was far more than an interpretation. After hearing Lewis perform these pieces it is difficult imagine them being played in any other way. The ebb and flow of each musical idea seemed to express an inner order and logic that could not be questioned. All the subtleties found in this music were executed with the utmost of delicacy and precision. While the more vigorous passages were played with a passion and energy that is not easily matched.

Lewis began the evening in a very business-like manner. A quick bow to acknowledge the rapturous applause, and then straight into the first of the twelve waltzes. A similar routine followed at the interval, and then again at the end of the recital. I did find it a little strange that Lewis did not speak at all. Maybe this is part of the ‘understated persona’ that is alluded to in the concert programme. Looking back over previous concerts I had attended, I tried to think if this was a common trait of any other performers, or one that is unusual to Paul Lewis. I don’t suppose it really matters that much. The performance was of the highest standard and that’s what the night was all about. It is nice when performers give a bit of themselves away when performing, but Lewis seemed to give one hundred percent to the music. And if that’s what it takes to get this kind of performance, then who am I to argue.

Here is Paul Lewis playing the first movement of Schubert’s Piano Sonata No.19 in C minor.

Paul Lewis is back at the Sheldonian in November to play another selection of works by Schubert. For more information follow this link


About Gary Skinner

Second year music student interested in composition
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