Merchants Hall, Glasgow
I was expecting to hear the Morley Quartet at lunchtime yesterday as advertised, but Brian Davidson’s surprise piano recital was certainly no disappointment. I hadn’t heard this RSAMD-trained pianist before, although he has been on the scene for some years having first picked up a number of awards and prizes on his subsequent postgraduate travels. He’s now, I believe, studying composition with that colourful pianist/composer Ronald Stevenson, but there was little of the latter’s extrovert and flamboyant style in his presentation of the two sonatas played yesterday.
Beethoven’s Opus 110 in A flat doesn’t require quite the same technical wizardry as do some of the other late sonatas, but it does need considerable depth of feeling and sensitivity. His opening Moderato (marked con amabilita) was beautifully introspective and the cantabile, so important throughout the work, was discrete and eloquent. It was in fact a most satisfying performance. Perfectly spaced and cohesive and Davidson’s contrapuntal playing in the fugue was lucid and sonorous.
The other work in his recital was no less convincingly played, but for me at any rate, rather less rewarding musically – Rachmaninov’s Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor. Davidson gave it the full romantic treatment, certainly, the broad sweep and grand gesture, and lots of power. He makes a lovely sound, and if the quieter, reflective moments of the piece sounded a shade superficial after the Beethoven, this was hardly the fault of the pianist.
Wilma Paterson, The Glasgow Herald
Piano recital of real quality in Stromness
Once again, Orkney proved its ability to attract a first class performer to give a recital here. Brian Davidson, who teaches at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama but who is better known here as an Associated Board examiner, struggled through appalling weather to reach Stromness for a piano recital on Sunday.
Perhaps hours spent snowbound in Blair Atholl or grounded at Wick Airport had given Mr Davidson deeper insights into the darker, melancholy reaches of the human psyche.
The programme he had chosen seemed to dwell on these themes. The first piece, Mozart’s Fantasy in C Minor K. 475, led the audience deep into the mind of the composer. Starting low down on the keyboard, the dramatic intensity of this piece was quickly established. Brian Davidson’s playing wove a sort of spell through this piece, highlighting its qualities of mystery and profundity which completely belied the sudden and unexpected end.
The mood of mystery was sustained in the second work, Schubert’s Sonata in A Minor D.784. This less well known piece is characterised by an air of sadness contrasted with passages of almost religious expressiveness.
Mr Davidson’s playing was at times meditative then majestic, introspective then impassioned. He played with both the power demanded by this piece and also the sensitivity necessary to realise fully the complexity of the composer’s demands.
After the interval, Brian Davidson played two works by Liszt; first the highly expressive Sonetto 104 del Petrarca, then the Legend No. 2 in E Major ‘St Francis walking on the Waves’. Liszt is one of the finest composers for solo piano.
His music at times requires the pianist to produce a sound more reminiscent of a symphony orchestra than of only one instrument.
This was particularly apparent in the Legend with one hand describing the power and turbulence of the waves with the other indicating the calm and steady progress of the saint over them. Mr Davidson played with remarkable balance and control, creating a rich and warm sound.
The concert closed with three pieces by Chopin, two Nocturnes and one Scherzo. Mr Davidson has devoted himself to particular study of the music of Chopin and this was clearly apparent in his playing of these pieces. One somehow felt that there was a special relationship between player and music. The sound he produced was like velvet in its warmth, smoothness and sense of luxury, caressing the ears of the listeners. It would be fair to say that Brian Davidson kept the best in this concert till last.
This was not a recital which was intended to challenge the audience, nor was it one which relied upon excitement. Rather, Brian Davidson led his listeners on a journey through some of the darker thoughts of these four well-loved composers and so opened up, with complete mastery and beautiful sensitivity, some of the hidden riches of their music.