What a treat it was to hear Alasdair Beatson in such an up-close and intimate setting.
The previous week Oxana Shevchenko had played the same small Recital Room at the City Halls and had sounded too big for the space; Beatson, ever the sensitive listener, tailored his touch to turn the cosy gathering into a close-knit listening experience.
The hour-long programme centred around Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy – not exactly genteel or small-scale stuff. Beatson's left foot rode the piano's soft pedal to quieten the sound but also to take the edge off it. The result was a mellow, rounded tone that still sparkled under clean and muscular fingerwork.
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A challenge with the Wanderer is how to deal with its episodic nature: in many ways the piece does what it says on the tin – wanders and fantasises – but Beatson trod a straight course, addressing the span in one great sweep. It made for a thrilling trajectory to the final fugue, but missed a sense of discovery in corners.
Mozart's Variations on Unser dummer Pobel meint was a fairly technical opener with plenty of scales and arpeggios, but as a warm-up for the Sonata it really worked, introducing us to Beatson's brand of clean, sturdy elegance and presumably getting his fingers in gear, too.
To close the recital he played three Liszt lieder transcriptions: Schubert's Du bist die Ruh and Gretchen am Spinnrade and Schumann's haunting Widmung. Here the trick lies in keeping the melody lyrical while darting about Liszt's heavy accompaniments. Beatson did so artfully, and also embraced the grand expanses that the transcriptions bring to the songs.