Pianist Michael Houstoun
Sir Rodney Gallen Tribute Concert
Blyth Performing Arts Centre,
Havelock North, Sunday, August 14
Reviewed by Peter Williams
Michael Houstoun has become a household name in New Zealand, not only for his prowess as a concert pianist but also for the enormous contribution he has made to music in this country over so many years.
It was a pleasure to hear him play again in this fine new concert venue in a tribute recital for the life of the late Sir Rodney Gallen who, with his wide interests outside of the law profession throughout his life, so enriched the life of the Hawke's Bay community.
The first part of the concert was devoted to the music of J S Bach with a selection of Preludes and Fugues from Book 2 of The Well-Tempered Klavier. I don't recollect having heard Houstoun play Preludes and Fugues often in previous recitals but his performance on this occasion was all that one would desire - models of clarity and elegance in every detail.
The arresting rhythmic grandeur expressed in the Number 2 in D major, the stately elegance of the Fugue Number 9 in E major, the gentle sighing quality expressed in the Prelude No 12 in F minor and the sense of climax conveyed in the Fugue No 17 in A flat major were among the special highlights.
The second part of the programme was devoted to the music of Brahms, Poulenc and Fauré.
The Three Intermezzi Op 117 by Brahms were a model of expressive detail in performances which emphasised the unique mood of each.
Francis Poulenc's Three Novelettes glittered under Houstoun's fingers as he showed the distinctive character of the music, with its cool French eloquence and then the added infectious rhythmic emphasis in Novelette No 2 in B flat minor.
The capacity audience was captivated by Houstoun's brilliant playing of the works by Gabriel Fauré - Nocturne in E flat Minor, Op 33, No 1 and particularly by the Valse-Caprice in A, Op 30. Here the technical command of the most virtuosic passages, combined with superlative range of expressive colour and phrasing, all presented in Houstoun's understated manner of performance, made this a superb climax to a splendid recital.
Iona College is fortunate to have the support of such generous benefactors in the provision of this top-class performance facility.