There was a genuine buzz after Zoltan Galyas’ superb piano recital at St John’s on Tuesday, several members of the audience gathering round the Steinway grand in order to express their thanks and appreciation for the playing of the 25-year-old musician.
Zoltan, who was born in Slovakia but who has lived in Britain since 2005, was happy to talk about his choice of repertoire. He also showed us his hands with their span of only just over an octave, not to mention his admirably strong, steely fingers.
This happy occasion was an example of how the St John’s concerts are encouraging a community of music-lovers whose interest goes beyond just arriving at the venue, listening, and departing. This was a warm, human experience as well as a first-rate recital by an exceptional young player. It was also a concert of piano music which epitomised the 19th century romantic tradition.
Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt were all represented in Zoltan’s programme and all three were born during 1810 and 1811.
Their influence on subsequent generations of composers, including Rachmaninov and Skryabin whose music also featured in the concert, can hardly be over-estimated.
Out of these it’s Chopin who is undoubtedly the most influential so that it was appropriate that Zoltan Galyas chose three of the composer’s major works to begin his programme. There is nothing quite like the famous Ballade in G minor with its soulful opening melody, its frenzied waltzing, and its occasional moments of melting lyricism.
All of these features were handled sympathetically by Zoltan. But it’s the furious coda, with its finger-breaking split chords and high-velocity scales, which present the greatest technical challenge to the player. Yet here too Zoltan was unfazed and in control.
Chopin’s E major Scherzo which followed was an inspired choice as it presents an almost completely opposite agenda to the Ballade.
Instead of the despondent opening there is a sunny sequence of five notes decorated by cascading figurations. And instead of turbulence there is a peaceful middle section.
After Chopin’s Polonaise in E flat minor which combines romantic expression with east European dance rhythms, Zoltan moved onto Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnet No 5.
Building on Chopin’s foundations Liszt adds an even greater degree of virtuosity, including sonorous double thirds and trills.
So that it was a happy choice when Zoltan Galyas ended his recital with a delightful performance of Schumann’s refreshing and sweetly straightforward Arabesque.
REVIEW: JOE CONWAY