Beethoven’s early pair of Rondos, published anachronistically as opus 51, are very seldom heard in concert, and it was good to be reminded how utterly lyrical they are, and how the young Beethoven is flexing muscles more musical than technical. Gillham’s limpid tone caught the composer’s intention precisely. He went on to deliver a memorable account of one of Beethoven’s sunniest compositions: the great A major Sonata, opus 101. Here Gillham covered all bases: fervent lyricism in the first movement, marvellously precise dotted rhythms in the second, and scintillating clarity in the contrapuntal finale.
In the second part of his recital, Jayson Gillham gave us a magisterial and technically stunning account of the first edition of Schumann’s Etudes symphoniques, opus 13, with the five posthumously-published variations inserted at intelligently-conceived intervals. He gave us all of Schumann’s repeats, introducing some splendid dynamic variation of his own in the process. Gillham’s sound remained thoroughly beautiful from pianissimo to fortissimo. And it is always a pleasure to hear the original version of the finale – almost, as Gillham pointed out in his insightful programme notes, a composition in itself. Rapturous applause and hoarse vocal approbation from the delighted capacity audience procured an account of Chopin’s Valse brillante, opus 34/1 that was both brilliant and charming. In all, a wonderful evening of first-class music-making.
Dr. Leslie J. Howard - this article will appear in Musical Opinion in April 2014.