Pianist Noriko Ogawa loved performing for us, and, we loved listening to her. It was a classic example of the Breinton Phenomenon where the audience’s thirst and love for music was felt, met and satisfied by the performer and both sides enjoyed each other’s company thoroughly. Noriko, whose performance was vocal and expressive and was also an eloquent speaker, served as the perfect season opener. She gave us the buzz and excitement which we wish to carry onto the forthcoming concerts.

Noriko opened the programme with a sweet, light-hearted and short piece by Clara Schumann. This was followed by Robert Schumann’s romantic masterwork, Fantasie in C. It brought a rupture of emotion and torment. Noriko threw her message straight at us; her intention to deliver what and how was passionately clear, whether it being the tone of sounds, characterising the phrases, and voicing the melody. In the first and second movements she showed the powerhouse side of her, making the performance almost orchestral. By that I do not mean she was over-powering, but that I felt completely surrounded and soaked up in an air pocket of the dynamic sound-making. To make a total contrast to the second movement’s thunderous coda, the slow finale brought a serene and contemplative state of mind with beautiful cantabile sounds.

Toru Takemitsu was the new composer to be introduced to Breinton. Having met him herself, Noriko shared an interesting episode about his instrument and composing method. His short piece, Les Yeux Clos II, was manipulative and mysterious. This was followed by Debussy’s atmospheric Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy, the composer deeply influenced Toru Takemitsu. The beautiful flowing passages and tenderly placed chords were mind cleansing, preparing for us for the next patch of powerful music: Chopin’s Ballade No. 1, Franz Liszt’s La Vallée d’Obermann and La Campanella

The Ballade No. 1, a Chopin piece beloved by many, was never rushed. Noriko’s account was that of a dramatic story-telling, displaying the widest range from being majestic to subtle. 

She really went for a huge sound, taking the opportunity to play our gorgeous piano to full with La Vallée d’Obermann, while displaying natural swings between forcefulness and lyricism. La Campenella is one of the ‘Grand Paganini Etudes’, the melody of which is known to everyone but it is full of high-command technical difficulties. It was a fantastic finish to our season opening concert, showing off her virtuosity. 

Noriko played Erik Satie’s Je te veux for an encore, uplifting and joyful, which made everyone want to skip and dance. All the Satie CDs Noriko brought were sold before I got to them – I am patiently waiting to receive one, which she kindly offered to post to me!