Richard Whitehouse on an intriguing recital from the Music at Unique Venues series
Leighton House, London Tuesday 10 November
Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, Op. 37b (1875-6)
Chopin: Preludes, Op. 24 – selection (1835-9)
Tomasz Lis (piano)
This evening’s recital formed part of the series Music at Unique Venues, aiming to combine the appeal of music and art by holding recitals at places not normally associated with live performance or, moreover, that are not often open to the general public. Although Leighton House has been accessible over much of the past century, not least for live music-making, a lengthy period of renovation had effectively taken it out of circulation; making performances such as that given tonight by the Polish pianist Tomasz Lis a much-needed act of redress.
Each half began with Lis placing the music in the context of fine-art from the same period. Thus he prefaced his account of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons with consideration of those paintings A Rye Field and Winter by Ivan Shishkin (1832-98), whose deftly achieved realism found its complement in the understated and folk-inflected ethos of Tchaikovsky’s cycle; played with a winning combination of grace and eloquence by Lis, who pointed out it might have been titled ‘The Months’ were it not for the commercial acumen of its publisher.
The second half duly opened with Lis considering the paintings Souvenir de Mortefontaine by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875) and Fire at Sea by JMW. Turner (1775-1851); their powerful synthesis of feeling with depiction finding direct equivalent in the 24 Preludes of Chopin, 16 of which (Nos. 1-11 and 13-17) were heard here. Two-thirds of such a closely integrated cycle might have been in error, but Lis ensured this selection unfolded with a cohesion such that the A flat prelude rounded-off the sequence with requisite poise.
Add to this visual and musical feast the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings of the house made famous by Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-96) out of opening hours, and the result was an evening as instructive as it was pleasurable. Tomasz Lis has recently released his debut album – featuring impromptus by Schubert, Chopin and Fauré – via Rondeau Productions (Klanglogo KL1511), which is well recommended. The Music at Unique Venues continues next February at Armourers Hall in the City of London and then in May at the Saville Club.
You can read more about the Music at Unique Venues series here
Meanwhile the website of Tomasz Lis is here