The first autumn concert at Breinton was a glorious evening of utterly beautiful variations and etudes. As a variations enthusiast myself, this was a sheer joy. It was a delicious evening, where each piece and each variation had its own nuance and depth, and with every bite into them, pianist Danny Driver magically opened up a distinctive sense of flavour.
Danny’s sound world consisted of pureness, richness, multi-faceted colours and shapes. Together with the mastery of his fingerboard skills, his performance was made more special with his intellectual conviction.
The angelic theme of Schumann’s Ghost Variations was sung with pure simplicity, and it was as if spirits were guiding us into a dreamy cocoon. As the variations progressed, the world became more distorted, and the last variation’s warped surreal sounds were expressed stupendously.
The opening theme of Fauré’s Variations was a solemn affair, marching at an ideal tempo, which allowed breathing and made the audience follow the melody step by step. Each variation was enjoyed with Danny’s exquisite expressive depth, which captured its mood and nuance, portraying the nobleness, playfulness, subtleness, gloominess, heavenliness, to name a few.
Danny picked three of Ligeti’s Etudes (Arc-en-ciel, Automne a Varsovie and Fanfares) for tonight’s concert, and they were sensational! The complicated rhythm, sparkling sounds, leaping notes, earth-shattering passages, mysterious harmonies, dazzling energy – in Danny’s hands, all were under control and turned into whirlwind of excitement.
The second half was entirely dedicated to Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes. This highly virtuosic work of the utmost beauty has been my all-time favourite and I was thrilled to hear it played with the five posthumous Variations. The sombre C-sharp minor theme was presented firmly to set the audience up for what was yet to come. Soon we were wrapped in a rich, full-bodied sound world; at times we found ourselves with twinkling notes showering us, and other times we were pinned to the seat by authority of the great sound. When one variation came to an end, I could see the audience eagerly looked forward to hearing the next. When the last chord of the triumphant Finale was played, there was a roar of applause – what an incredible 40-minute journey.