Sensitivity, subtlety, accuracy and musicality – pianist Ashley Fripp’s pianism breathed life into the all-time favourites and much-loved piano works by Schubert and Chopin.
I first came across this formidable pianist several years ago when he performed at Milton Court at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was touring after having been chosen as a Rising Star by the European Concert Hall Organization.
Of course, Ashley has developed and matured in many ways since then but the very qualities that had caught my attention that first time are intact. His polished and pure sound quality is first class; it would shine in the darkest cave! Ashley used this gift in the most thoughtful manner in today’s matinée performance. I will use a funny analogy here, but his musicality, along with the beautiful sounds, were not the product of a quick stir-fry; it was more like a slow-cooked and firmly flavoured deliciousness.
The four Impromptus by Schubert were utter beauty. The continuously outpouring lyricism through the long singing phrases was exquisite. Ashley offered the most tender delicateness and contrasting strengths in No. 1 in C minor. The dreamy melody of No. 2 in E flat in triplets was voiced most effectively with a left-hand accompaniment which must have required the subtlest possible control. No. 3 in G flat major was a great musical pleasure. In No. 4 in A flat major, one felt a joyful emotional surge. Ashley’s playing really made the audience listen so that genius Schubert’s sheer magic was fully appreciated; I myself have never listened to the Impromptus this attentively.
Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 is not heard as much as Ballade No. 1 and No. 4, but what a gem it is. It starts with a rather peaceful and sweet introduction, but develops into different moods. Ashley demonstrated a variety of sonority and texture throughout; the high-light for me was when the chromatic left-hand ran rapidly, building up to the climax.
The programme ended with Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brilliante. The Andante Spinianato, with a hint of French ambiance and perfume was much adored, while the bombarding and triumphant Polonaise was virtuosic and powerful, yet not forgetting its elegance.
The encore was Sarabande from Bach’s 2nd Partita – a divine ending to today’s performance. I’m sure many felt sad when it actually finished.
Ashley was not only articulate with music but also with words. His description of each piece included unknown facts, interesting episodes and his own thoughts, which helped appreciate his performance even more.