A good season for Auckland Museum's Fazioli International Piano Recital series saw all seats sold for Philip Fowke's closing concert of Chopin followed by a nifty parade of encores.

For me, a nostalgia button was pressed, evoking Whakatane memories of the early '60s, when visiting music examiners such as Geoffrey Tankard and Benjamin Frankel would give lively farewell recitals at the local Lyceum Club.

Fowke caught that same magic, with an urbanity and charm that ensured audience captivation.

Four Chopin mazurkas opened the evening, with particularly lingering rubato, followed by two Ballades and a skilfully navigated Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante.


Slipping from black tuxedo to white cocktail jacket after interval, Fowke spun reminiscences of the legendary Eileen Joyce, Benno Moiseiwitsch and Vladimir Horovitz, illustrated by music associated with them.

Not afraid to rebuke the contemporary taste for under-estimating Grieg, Fowke was the soul of affability unleashing the celebrated Rustle of Spring by Christian Sinding, with a few vernal storms en route.

We enjoyed Paderewski and Levitzki, a Dohnanyi barn-stormer and a Moszkowski sparkler, not to mention two elegant jazz stylings by Billy Mayerl; Winifred Atwell, though mentioned, was not sampled.

The best came last: two Tchaikovsky transcriptions in which Fowke's devilishly clever pedals seemed to set the Russian composer's Sugar Plum Fairy hovering mid-air over the Fazioli's strings.

What: Philip Fowke
Where: Auckland Museum
When: Saturday