In November 2014, I wrote a glowing review for Martin James Bartlett for a concert he gave at Wimbledon International Music Festival. One year and four months later, here is another one. His recital at Breinton last Saturday was simply one of the most enjoyable and joyful occasions.

There is something magnetic about Martin’s performance. There are many elements to this; perhaps it is the preciseness of his performance, or sound quality, or his interpretation of the pieces, or his engaging posture, sitting low at the piano, that reminds us a little bit of Glenn Gould. Whatever it is, people cannot help but falling for his charm and the uniqueness he offers. There certainly was a reason why Martin won the BBC Young Musician title in 2014!

Beethoven’s Sonata in E flat major was a delight. While maintaining playfulness and crispness throughout, the third movement Menuetto was singingly beautiful and sweet, and the fourth movement joyfully rhythmical. 

Liszt’s Vallee d’Obermann was performed at an ideal tempo, I thought, and brought on imagination for picturesque and scenic beauty. 

After the interval, he continued with Franz Schubert’s Impromptus No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4. It was a pity that No. 1 was excluded from the programme but Martin said it would make for too long a programme!  Impromptu No. 2's lovely melody in triplets flowed flawlessly. I loved the subtle gentleness of the left-hand accompaniment (in lyrical pieces like these, I always pay attention to the left-hand accompaniment, as they play a crucial role), which really contributed to the sweet voicing of the beautiful melody. The long, lyrical and melodic lines of the No. 3 Impromptu floated and gave us audience a warm, comfortable dreamy feeling. 

After those peaceful dreams, we were taken to another extreme, to experience a roaring, vibrant and stimulating piano sonata by Samuel Barber. 

What a fantastic programme, to showcase Martin’s technical virtuosity as well as artistic exploration. The encore to complete the evening was Chopin’s Etude No. 4, Op. 10. Needless to say, many people wanted to congratulate him after the concert. I felt the evening was a true success.

Martin James Bartlett

In May 2014, at the age of 17, Martin James Bartlett won the BBC Young Musician competition, following a performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirill Karabits. Martin began his piano studies with Emily Jeffrey at the Royal College of Music Junior Department at the age of 8, continuing at the Purcell School 5 years later. In 2014, he commenced his undergraduate studies with Vanessa Latarche at the Royal College of Music with a coveted Foundation Scholarship. Martin has previously studied the bassoon and the recorder as well, achieving Grade 8 Distinction on all three instruments by the age of 12.

  • Beethoven:  Sonata in E flat, Op. 31 No. 3
  • Liszt:  Valee d'Obermann (No. 6 from Annees de Pelerinage, Premier annee)
  • Schubert: Impromptu No. 2 in E-flat major Op. 90
  • Schubert: Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat major Op. 90
  • Schubert: Impromptu No. 4 in A-flat major Op. 90
  • Barber:  Piano Sonata Op. 26