Ronan Magill


Ronan Magill's recital at London's Wigmore Hall

Whatever else is going on in the mosaic that adorns the platform at the Wigmore Hall, I reckon the central figure is Apollo, who had every reason to beam on both player and audience throughout Ronan Magill's piano recital on 22 July 2010. At first sight, the programme seemed almost too varied for comfort. How would Scarlatti sound on a Steinway concert grand? What were Peter Warlock folk-song preludes doing in the midst of cascading keyboard virtuosity? Would the Beethoven 'Waldstein' sonata make much impression at the end of a long evening's music? In the event, everything worked admirably. I have no idea how many manuals Magill thought Scarlatti's harpsichord might have contained; his dynamic range and variety of tone colours suggested a multi-faceted instrument way beyond the knowledge of the eighteenth century. But how wise it was to begin with two sonatas in minor keys. Scarlatti's slants on the more plangent aspects of Spanish musical life are irresistible, and Magill coloured them with a subtle artistry that exploited the full gamut of his powerful keyboard.It was no surprise that at the end of the recital Magill gave three encores. I personally would have preferred the whole of the Schumann Op 14 sonata, of which we were given the variations on a theme by Clara, if only because the same tune launches the work and is hinted at elsewhere. But how happy to be called the Comtesse d'Abegg, whose surname goes straight into music. I would make a comparatively pitiful showing. Schumann actually wrote twice the number of published variations for the Countess. I recommend them to Ronan Magill, who would certainly not find them too virtuosic, which was Schumann's reason for rejecting them. Warlock scorned Vaughan Williams's treatment of folksong. Instead he is sub-Delian and also very much himself. I shall long remember the final chord of the five pieces, preserved till quietness resolved into silence while we were all breathless with expectation for an interval drink. Fortified for Liszt, who prefaced his Obermann with some of Byron's Childe Harold, we could only admire Magill's evocation of 'the awful Alpine track', and 'the autumn storm-winds', though those are relevant words by Matthew Arnold. And finally the 'Waldstein', brisk and purposeful in the first movement, but wondrously expansive in the Rondo. It made a fine conclusion to a very impressive recital.

Copyright © 24 July 2010 Robert Anderson,
London UK