BEETHOVEN CONCERT 21 OF 40: Does Houstoun’s formidable playing make me want to quit piano? Not a chance.

Continuing our strong contribution from piano students around the country, University of Waikato piano student, Dolan Cox is stepping up with his Beethoven reCYCLE concert experience…


Dolan Cox

Dolan Cox

The tour de force that is Michael Houstoun brought a packed Gallagher Concert Chamber to its feet last night in Hamilton. Embarking on a mammoth musical marathon this year (performing the entire cycle of Beethoven’s sonatas is nothing short of a pianistic Everest), Houstoun’s sheer facility remains virtually unmatched in New Zealand.

The air of the concert chamber was humming with anticipation. Even before the doors opened their was a huge sense of occasion and excitement (not just because of the well-stocked bar).

The Hamilton audience gathering in the foyer before the concert.

The Hamilton audience gathering in the foyer before the concert.

The audience were expecting a breath-taking performance and what Houstoun delivered on stage was maybe even more than they had bargained for. From the first notes of Beethoven’s ‘easiest’ Sonata Op.49 No.2, Houstoun created a magic that would endure throughout the performance – an inviting, harp-like tone; stylistic, classical tailoring and an unapologetic sense of direction and line. Highlights of the programme included the arresting and the determined first movement of Op.2 No.3, which the pianist dispatched with an astounding technical ease, and the poignant F# Sonata Op.78 in which he painted a lyrical, heartstring-tugging declaration of love.

The draw-card of the programme was of course the ever popular Appassionata. Houstoun threw his listeners head first into the tempestuous storm of this sonata. The virtuoso waterfalls of notes fell easily under his hand but more importantly, the brooding and sometimes frightful drama of the piece was embodied and encapsulated. It finished the concert and brought an instantaneous standing ovation from the entire audience. The respect and admiration that Houstoun commands in New Zealand is well earned. I was asked by an audience member if Houstoun’s formidable playing made me want to quit piano. Not a chance. His innate artistry and musicality can only inspire – I know I’ll be spending a few extra hours in the practice rooms today.

– Dolan, 29.08.2013

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