Jayson Gillham: Limelight review

★★★★½ Queensland’s star pianist takes London by storm ahead of Aussie tour.
Australia House, London
June 7, 2016
A summer afternoon in London and I am going to a piano recital in Australia House where there’s plenty of imperial gilding to gawp at, but on this evening it is the wonder of the music which awes me. The event was to launch the release by ABC Classics of the debut recital album by Jayson Gillham. In 2014, at just 27, this young Australian artist won the Montreal International Music Competition and has since given concerto performances with many of the world’s greatest orchestras. This autumn he will embark on an extensive Australian tour.
Virtuosity is a given at the level at which Gillham works and throughout this programme virtuosity was much on display, but it was his extraordinary interpretive skill that left me overwhelmed. His programme began with Bach’s Toccata in C minor, BWV911. The first slow, deliberate notes, giving the impression that Gillham was considering the reason behind each of the composer’s musical choices, announced his commitment to communicating the composer’s intensions over showing off his own technical brilliance. It is this commitment that makes Gillham such an engaging performer. Even when playing prestissimo each note seems considered, its significance sought before being delivered with literal and emotional precision. Listening to the Bach I shared the sheer thrill of the exactitude underlying its composition.
Next up was the Andante from Schubert’s Sonata in A, D664, the perfect piece for a summer’s evening and in Gillham’s hands its journey from relaxed lyricism to sparkling finale spread through the room with an infectious joy. Gillham’s finale was the Presto non tanto from Chopin’s Sonata No 3 in B Minor, an exhilarating work which Gillham delivered with complete mastery, delineating the complexities of layer upon layer of sound with bravura. Three works by three different composers, performed by Gillham as if by three different men: he even seems to look different! What prevents this from being preposterous or presumptuous is Gillham’s surrender of any self aggrandisement in his performance. There is nothing showy here, just simplicity and a determination to make each note sing with the voice the composer intended. Awe inspiring.
The recital ended with guest appearances from two of Australia’s, or to be more specific Queensland’s, other young musical stars, Kiandra Howarth and Samuel Sakker. Both are currently working in London and clasped firmly to the bosom of its opera- loving citizens. Howarth sang Depuis le jour from Charpantier’s Louise, a perfect choice to show the vivacity she so effortlessly conveys with such a joyous sound. Sakker followed with Why? by Tchaikovsky. His relaxed delivery communicated every nuance of the piece. They then joined one another in Mascagni’s Cherry Duet from L’Amico Fritz: charming, amusing and beautifully delivered. It is easy to see why next season Sakker will become a Company Principal at The Royal Opera and why both their diaries seem to be pretty packed with future engagements.
Finally I must express this UK citizen’s admiration for the recital’s host, Ken Smith Agent General for Queensland. His knowledgeable enthusiasm for the work of these three artists illustrated the difference that intelligent support from those in “high places” can make to the development of an artist’s career.
Jayson Gillham tours Australia later this year.
– See more at: http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/live-reviews/review-jayson-gillham-recital-london#sthash.2pEGjTMr.dpuf

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