review Warren Mailley-Smith piano recital

A debonair pianist, candle light and champagne: what more could one ask? The Valentine’s Champagne Concert given by Warren Mailley-Smith in Ely Cathedral lived up to its expectations. With astounding dexterity, this sensational pianist wowed the audience with music that pulled at the heart strings. As candles flickered around him in the octagon, he performed astounding feats on the grand piano that kept the listeners spellbound.  

It was as if we were drawn back into the heady days of the popular pianists of a yester-year. The programme included pieces that displayed Warren’s phenomenal technique and his natural empathy with the greatest showmen of the Romantic era. It was as if Rachmaninov or Liszt had returned to the stage.

The opening Appassionata Sonata Op 57 in F minor was splendid. Beethoven’s impassioned outbreaks, his extreme contrasts and the flow of rolling broken chords never lost the thread of the deep-seated emotional of his style. Warren’s sensitivity and strength created amazing multi-dimensional fabrics. The main melodic themes were clearly and potently held, while underlying harmonies, pedal notes and trills were integrated seamlessly.  In the Presto, Warren played at break-neck speed with utter clarity and accuracy.

As expected, a favoured composer was Chopin, one of the most romantic composers of all. Reminiscences of Chopin’s piano concert no 1, in his Souvenirs de Paganini and his Ballade No 1, Op 23 in G minor were played to perfection, the cross rhythms, the highly demanding virtuosic flourishes and the heart rending sonorous melodies were beautifully expressed.

No evening of romantic music would be complete without Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata Op 27 in C sharp minor. Warren’s performance was spellbinding. His exact touch gave every note its correct weight. Warren’s fingers shaped the phrases beautifully and in the third movement, the Presto agitato, his fingers flew over the keys, with not a note missing and not a nuance forsaken.

In Liestraume no 3 by Liszt Warren made the unforgettable melodies sing, while accompanying material weaved seamlessly through the work, virtuosic flourishes and embellishments melting into the fabric.

Warren’s potent touch brought out every essence of the pain, power and anguish inthe haunting themes of Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G minor Op 23 no 1.

It was fortuitous that Warren’s own wedding anniversary fell on the day after the concert. His performance of Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen was a fitting and attractive late addition to the programme.

The concert was brought to a close with a glittering performance of Gershwin’s piano arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue.  With real showmanship, Warren entered into the spirit of the work with amazing technique and understanding. Jazzy rhythms and cheeky interpolations, exquisitely delicate episodes were well contrasted with moments of overwhelming flamboyance.

Warren’s encore , a delightful arrangement of Spanish origin, added to the variety of this wonderful evening.

One of his next performances includes homage to Chopin when his birthday on 1st March will be celebrated in a concert at high Wickham.



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