Top pianist Joanna MacGregor delights audience at SeatonMusic recital

PUBLISHED: 17:00 26 February 2019

Joanna MacGregor played for SeatonMusic. Picture: Jane Godbeer

Joanna MacGregor played for SeatonMusic. Picture: Jane Godbeer


The audience at the latest concert for SeatonMusic were delighted by the performance of their guest pianist.

Brilliant! – Breath-taking! – Magnificent!– just a few of the reactions to SeatonMusic’s fourth concert this season on Thursday, February 21, writes Peter Dawson.

Joanna MacGregor first came to SeatonMusic in 2004.

She is head of piano at the Royal Academy, a professor at the University of London, director of several festivals (including Bath and Dartington) and has performed in a range of music in more than 80 countries. She was awarded the OBE in 2012.

She returned to Seaton last week with a varied programme that thrilled the large audience in The Gateway.

Starting with an exercise that the composer forgot, but which remains at the centre of the piano repertoire - Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor - she brought out the different character of the variations on his catchy theme.

Another great pianist, Chopin wrote many mazurkas, and Joanna MacGregor’s performance of four early ones (opus 30) and three later ones (opus 59) showed the range of moods and styles – dance-like, song-like, sad, ebullient, dramatic, reflective, light-hearted.

Three short dances by the prolific Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera with the evocative titles Dance of the Old Herdsman (energetic and rhythmic), Dance of the Beautiful Maiden (lyrical) and Dance of the Arrogant Cowboy (witty and wild!) completed the first half of the concert.

Less well-known composers featured in the second half. Sofia Gubaidulina is a Tatar-Russian, once accused by the USSR authorities of writing ‘pointless music… noisy mud’.

Her Chaconne, written in 1962, is full of quotations, with, as Joanna MacGregor’s programme notes suggested, the opening ‘cataclysmic chord of B minor heard at the beginning and the end’ as a reminder of Bach’s B minor mass.

Fazil Say’s Black Earth pays homage to a Turkish balladeer, using a Turkish folksong, in parts jazzy and folkloric describing loneliness and loss.

The concert ended with Beethoven’s powerful Appassionata Sonata in F minor (op.57), a huge work full of passion, heroism, tragedy, warmth which influenced other great composers in the 19th century.

An enthusiastic audience demanded an encore, in which Joanna MacGregor played a quiet, calming piece.

SeatonMusic welcome the Castalian Quartet for their next concert on Thursday, March 21, in the Gateway.

They will play music by Haydn, Britten and Schubert in a concert supported by the Young Musicians Trust.

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