Friday 20 July 2012

Ashley Wass goes pastoral

Ashley Wass, Beethoven/Liszt Pastoral Symphony
I first came across pianist Ashley Wass when I interviewed him at the start of his survey of Bax's piano music on Naxos. His name has cropped up in a variety of contexts, including a chamber music festival in his native Lincolnshire. But most memorably for me, his Proms debut in 2008 was the Vaughan Williams piano concerto in a stunning performance (also available on disc). He has returned to the Proms in subsequent years to play John Foulds, Stravinsky, Antheil and McCabe. Wass now has a new CD out, a recording of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony in Liszt's piano transcription, played on a forte piano!

Evidently Wass gives annual recitals on the forte piano (from Moravia dating from the mid-1820's) at Restoration House, Kent. Wass comments that 'I’ve played every single concert at Restoration House in Rochester with a broad grin and a soul refreshed …. So varied – and valuable – is this departure from my “normal” career, I truly consider it one of the highlights of my calendar'

It is always interesting when musicians go off piste, and playing such repertoire on a forte piano can mean that both pianist and piano are stretched. Whereas a modern piano can take almost anything that a pianist can throw at it, the period pianos (especially in the hands of Beethoven and of Liszt) were constantly being taken to their limits and beyond. 'With the ‘Pastoral’, one has the sense – I think – of fortepiano, fortepianist and composition all being stretched to their limits in a unique combination that delivers drama, immediacy and dynamism in spades.’ - Ashley Wass

The record is being released on Orchid Classics on 1 October 2012. Before then you can hear Ashley playing the Pastoral Symphony on tour, though only the first date is on forte-piano 

26th August - Restoration House, Rochester
1st November - St Georges, Bristol
9th November - Christchurch Priory, Dorset
14th November - Pharos Trust, Cyprus
16th November - Assembly Rooms, Lincoln
6th January - Champs Hill
19th January - The Hawth, Crawley
20th January - Wigmore Hall, London
2nd February - Holburne Museum, Bath

You can see Ashley playing the forte-piano at Restoration House on YouTube.

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