Paul Lewis Piano – St George’s, Bristol

Friday 8th February, 2019

My second concert of the day! This was another ticket picked up in the flash sale, so for the grand price of £11.25 I got to see one of the finest pianists of his generation.

Paul Lewis has played a series of concerts at St George’s and on the strength of tonight’s programme I wish I had seen them all and I hope he is able to come back and play more. I’m not sure how I missed the others. Perhaps I didn’t believe the St George’s write up’s, dismissing them as hyperbole. I was wrong to do so.

Paul Lewis is an outstanding pianist and I doubt I will see a classical player better. There is something very special about the piano, it is an instrument that is used in almost every genre of music. It can be found in grand concert halls as well as in front rooms and pubs. It cuts across class boundaries too, you were as likely to find an old joanna in the front parlour of my Nan’s house as you were a posh lady in a grand house. It is also one of the rare instruments that you go to see played alone. In the right hands it is a magnificent beast. Paul Lewis is absolutely the right hands. Powerful, emotional playing with guts and heart.

The Hayden piece was perfectly lovely, but the Brahms. Oh the Brahms. Even without the programme notes I could feel that Three Inrermezzi were dark lullabies. Gentle, yet sorrowful. Written, I felt, by a man nearing the end of his life, reflecting on beautiful days gone and thinking that there were fewer ahead than behind. There was an aching, melancholic beauty to it that left me weeping. I cannot remember the last time I had such a powerful and strong reaction to a piece of classical music.

Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz. I mean, I know we all know, but fucking hell Beethoven was brilliant wasn’t he? A genius. I wouldn’t want to try to dance a waltz to most of these variations, but bloody hell they were good. Some gentle and sweeping, others comical, others yet more powerful and brooding. Any music that can make you smile, laugh and then cry with the sheer joy of hearing it is a tiny bit special. Paul is a very physical player, muscular, moving his whole body, straining and stretching for every perfect note with the emotions evident in his face. This suite of variations takes about an hour to play, yet it felt like a quarter of that. This cannot be the final note I thought, yet it was.

I didn’t want it to be over. I want to hear Paul Lewis play again. I want more Brahms and more Beethoven. This was a superb concert. Bravo.


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