Scottish pianist Alasdair Beatson welcomes one of the great piano challenges in his Chichester recital, playing the piece about which Schubert famously said “Let the devil play it!”
Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy will conclude a programme which opens with Mozart’s Sonata in F K332 and continues with Fauré’s Préludes Op 103 and Ravel’s Sonatine (the Assembly Room, Chichester Council House, North Street. Thursday, February 16, 7.30pm, 01243 781312).
“Schubert described the piece as incredibly difficult. It has got a really rousing finale. The last few bits are more and more difficult and more and more extrovert. It’s very virtuosic.
“I have played it already and I have been working on it for a long time. Sometimes a piece having a reputation like that gives you the real motivation to master it and you just practice harder than you have done before. You have to work out what it is about the piece that other pianists find hard and then you try to come up with your own solutions.”
As for just what makes it so difficult, Alasdair believes two sets of circumstances apply: “He was really wanting to stretch the pianist. He wanted to go to an absolute extreme. There are passages with nine rapid notes downwards and then a jump up and then a passage of nine notes down again and there is no gap in which to jump. It’s an example of him being a bit cruel to the pianist but it also creates a real feeling of excitement.
“The other thing is that he was writing it at a time when the piano had a lighter mechanism. Now it is weightier so even Schubert had not meant it to be as difficult as it is!
“The Mozart opens the programme, but I really love this French component to the programme as well with the Fauré. Coming out of the context of French music, I think you hear the Schubert with different ears.
“I adore the Fauré. I have never seen them on the same programme by any other pianist. They are nine little miniatures, very succinct, very refined and also very exotic. He wrote them towards the end of his life when he was struggling with deafness and I think you can hear that he was a little bit lonely...”