Nelson pianist Andrew Ward returns to NCMA to perform a recital featuring Bach’s Italian Concerto, Beethoven’s Sonata Op.31 no.1, and a selection of Preludes by Rachmaninov.
J.S.Bach’s Italian Concerto BWV 971 was first published in 1735, as part of the second half of his Clavier-Übung, a series of works for keyboard whose contents were intended to be representative of the most prominent and fashionable styles of the time. The Concerto consists of three movements – a sprightly Allegro, a passionate Andante and a rousing Presto finale. The work was originally written for harpsichord, but transfers onto the modern piano in effortless fashion, demonstrating Bach’s innate mastery of keyboard writing.
Beethoven’s Sonata Op.31, no.1 is the first of a set of three, the first two of which he probably completely during 1802 whilst convalescing at the village of Heiligenstadt, just outside Vienna. Whilst he was not physically ill as such at this time, he had recently begun to come to terms with the reality of becoming deaf and consequently, was in something of a state of despair. What makes this sonata interesting then is its penchant for wit and irony, to the extent in the first movement that Beethoven actually seems to be mocking musical conventions of the time. The second is one of his greatest slow movements, yet it never reaches the same level of introspection as some of his more well-known examples. The Finale begins with a jaunty theme, which is subjected to different types of variation over the course of the movement, then rounded off by a hectic coda which refers back to the character of the first movement, during the final bars.
Rachmaninov wrote two sets of Preludes, Op.21 and Op.32, which he combined with the famous, doom-laden Op.3, no.2 to make a set of twenty-four, hence following in the tradition of J.S.Bach and Chopin. These are pieces full of drama, passion and dark wit at times, rich in harmonic texture and featuring, as so often with Rachmaninov’s music, sonorous extended melodies.
Andrew Ward was born in England and first began piano lessons at the age of six. He studied piano at Birmingham Conservatoire with Gordon Fergus-Thompson, then more recently, with Stephen de Pledge at the University of Auckland. He has pursued a successful career in music education and in 2022, he gained a Masters’ degree with first-class honours, having developed a specialism which was focused upon French piano music. Subsequently, in 2023 he was awarded a full scholarship by the University of Auckland, to study for a PhD in Creative Practice.
NCMA’s Lunchtime Concert Series is proudly sponsored by Nelson Pine Industries, GoldenEdge MDF