Sunday was the penultimate performance of Beethoven reCYCLE. Unsurprisingly Michael Houstoun has a fair few fans. Two eager fans (Laura Barton and Kayla Jones) happened upon Michael in town before his performance and the result was an unforgettable experience…
As the young women we are, we tend to have the ability to spot the people we look up to when we are walking through the town. This is exactly what happened on Sunday the 10th November. On our way to buy a coffee, Laura spotted Michael Houstoun strolling along. As the fangirls we are, we simply wanted to go up to him and say hi and tell him that we really appreciate what he does and how wonderful he is at piano. This led to him asking us about ourselves, the best part was he sounded genuinely interested in the answers to these questions. As time went on, he and Jessica Lightfoot decided that they would like us to write a blog post about our time at the concert, so here we are.
The concert was attended by a multitude of music lovers who could appreciate the aesthetic sounds Houstoun played that evening. His set was made of four sonatas, most notably the famous ‘Moonlight’ sonata. The Programme began with Beethoven’s second longest sonata, No. 4 in E flat, lasting around half an hour. This piece was incredible, capturing a wide range of emotions. It began playful and vibrant, but at times was a glorious mix of slow graceful tones. It seemed as if Houstoun’s fingers were flowing like magic. The highlight of the programme was undoubtedly the ‘Moonlight’ sonata, Houstoun’s understated interpretation of the first movement lent to it a quiet beauty that other overly romanticised versions detract from. The serenity of the piece was reminiscent of the slow build up of raindrops descending onto a smooth lake surface. Houstoun’s interpretation provided continuity throughout the sonata, encompassing the different shifts of each movement and creating a single story across the piece. As the piece came to a close a number of audience members rose and cheered Houstoun as he took a bow.
The second half recommenced with the ‘Pastoral’ sonata. Throughout the piece the audience was awestruck by Houstoun’s ability to portray the sonata with the definitive feel of pastoral scenes and narrative constructions. It was almost as if when our eyes were closed we could see the colour and hue changes as he was playing. To close the performance we were treated with sonata No. 31 in A flat. The third movement was particularly moving when considered alongside of Houstoun’s own previous physical suffering. The Adagio allowed for the content despair of Beethoven’s original emotions to come across through Houstoun as he played. His stance at the piano and stage presence gave the sensation that he was content in himself, allowing the audience to feel comfortable in his presence. As the last notes of the piano faded away, the audience was immediate in standing, the goose bumps on our skin stayed for a while longer as did the triumph that we felt at the close of this emotional journey.
Overall the performance as a whole gave us an enchanting journey through some of Beethoven’s works and allowed insight into Michael Houstoun’s own journey. It was obvious that these works are very personal to him as we could see him immersing himself into the music as he played. Often it would seem that Houstoun was playing with his eyes closed and simply enjoying the music and the feeling it gave him. Across the programme, the narrative intentions of both the composer and the performer were portrayed clearly and confidently. In addition to this, his incredible accuracy and swift, light finger work made technical challenges seem easy. It is testament to Houstoun’s skill as a performer that he managed to both shock and comfort us with a sense of familiarity, even though we were not familiar with most of the music.
– Laura and Kayla, 12.11.2013