Concert review: July 22, Whanganui War Memorial Centre
Reviewer: Albert Sword
Presented by Chamber Music Whanganui, this solo recital by Liam Wooding to a very full and appreciative house was yet another chance for locals to welcome and applaud one of their own.
Liam Wooding is a young pianist who made a name for himself round town, accompanying choirs and learning his chops. Now, returning home from several years studying overseas, and working with top teachers, he arrived with several pedigrees. He has played with symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras and won first prize at the 2015 National Concerto Competition; true accolades for a young maestro.
His solo recital was one not for the faint-hearted soloist. Combining modern minimalist compositions with impressionist and classical pieces, there was little rest for the pianist. Lilburn's F sharp minor sonata would have been familiar to many, and Beethoven's magnificent C sharp minor very familiar. Both were played with elan and incredible dexterity. I heard several people say during the interval, they had never heard The Moonlight played better. This piece alone will leave a lasting impression.
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But for me, the moderns excited me even more, starting with a work written for Liam by Australian composer Stuart Greenbaum, a reflection on being in the 2020 lockdown. A beautiful composition, beautifully played. The next modern was a compilation of Ellington and Debussy, both easily recognisable styles that married beautifully the impressionist and jazz genres while tipping their hats to J-P Rameau. The pieces were separate but linked, easily and seamlessly, so the listener only gradually became aware that one had become another. Here, Wooding demonstrated his easy acceptance and mastery of both musical genres.
And then there was Adams. John Adams' 1977 composition Phrygian Gates, a truly monumental work where the breathless audience were given no quarter but to accept mid-century minimalism at its exciting best. Wooding, here, showed his mastery of modern piano music and his excitement at passing on the complexities and subtleties of this work to an audience, many of whom would never have experienced an Adams work before. In fact, it seems this was the first New Zealand public outing. Wooding's performance was truly thrilling, fully deserving the well-deserved standing ovation.
A superb recital, one for artist and audience to treasure.