By Leona Sterling
Nicholas Young Performs Alan Griffiths’ Piano CD, October 28% 2017 at St Paul’s
Lutheran Church, Shepparton
Introspection is an apt title for the Alan Griffiths’ CD of repertoire he has composed for Piano since 1989. Whilst quite a prolific composer of music for 25 films, including 2 features, over the last two decades or so, his collaboration with pianist Nicholas Young in this piano recital demonstrates his very personal reflective and distinctively idiosyncratic compositional style.
This features soaring sustained melodies in the upper register of the piano combined with subtle dissonances, accompanied by variations of melodic and rhythmic motifs that become quite complex in their layering and virtuosity.
Griffiths’ music explores the extreme ranges of the keyboard and is unashamedly romantic in intangible references to French and Russian composers who have influenced him. The music with such titles as Reveries 1 (one of the most hauntingly evocative pieces), 2 and 3, are sensitive, even melancholic, whilst 3 Meditations, inspired by a dawn walk through the Goolengook old growth forest, captures the grandeur of trees, bird calls and shafts of sunlight.
The sonority of the piano is exploited – diminishing even to prolonged silences – within the free fantasia-like forms, shifting emotions and unpredictable contrasts within each piece. Rhapsody and Fantasia, 2/3™ Fugue and A Touch of Tango provide welcome changes of tempo but still demand nuanced touch and virtuosity from the pianist through the intricate
interweaving of complex rhythmic and melodic motives, even a dramatic climax using a fortissimo forearm chord cluster.
Nicholas Young’s performance fully realized Griffiths’ very personal musical intentions. This pianist is quickly developing an international profile through success in a number of piano competitions overseas, his appearances with Australia National Piano Award and with his chamber music group, Ensemble Frangaix. His virtuosic pianistic technique and sensitive expression and clarity of touch chimed admirably with the beautifully resonant, ringing high notes and the virtuosic demands of the motivic accompaniments. The superb acoustics of St Paul’s Lutheran Church captured soft passages, sustained silences, fading diminuendos and final cadences beautifully and created lingering suspense and intimacy between the pianist, the music and the audience.
We can only look forward with anticipation to the next Griffiths – Young collaboration which is planned for release in May 2018 with an album of piano and chamber music entitled Looking
Back, Moving Forward.