For the final of our lunchtime recitals before the half term holiday, we were lucky to have Ms Anne Bolt, Oakham School’s Head of Piano, step in at very short notice after the original recitalist became indisposed. Though one would hope to possess the virtues of adaptability and courage when asked to stand-in, there would be an understanding between performer and audience of mitigation. This was far from the case. In spite of the tight deadline with which Ms Bolt had to work, what we experienced was simply sublime, a captivating and memorable musical experience.
The recital began with two sonatas by Scarlatti. The first, in G major, displayed a vivacious and purposeful tempo. Such was the impact made upon this author that I felt immediately a strong connection with its Rococo idioms and vowed to explore it further. Ms Bolt, the technician, showed a natural affinity with the Steinway piano, making the music skip along with deftness and precision as if it were an early fortepiano or harpsichord, which both offer a lighter touch and a level of technical intimacy. The second sonata, in B minor, reflected the 18th Century affiliation of keys and moods. Here we experienced a wonderful contrast with a slower tempo and long, lyrical melodies, which were empowered with a small amount of sustain pedal but mostly through the sense of masterfully considered legato, as if Ms Bolt’s fingers were glued to the keys. In this repertoire, one can really sense both the conformity to the baroque idioms as well as the introduction of increased Bel-canto lyricism in the dawn of the galant style.
We then heard Papillons by Robert Schumann. This displayed, in quick succession, a broad range of musical characters, with some extreme emotional contrasts being the result of fast flourishes, extremes in pitch, and sudden changes in tempo and harmony. As well as the technical difficulties of the work, its long melodies requiring right-hand octaves, the abrupt frenetic passages and moments of tranquillity, there was also the sheer mental stamina of switching characters. Ms Bolt managed these transitions in such an impressive manner, showing a total mind-and-body performance going far beyond simply playing the notes. These sudden changes and the particulars of each waltz in Papillons hugely reflects the nature of Schumann’s personality. Ms Bolt’s realisation of this piece revealed a commitment to understanding the man behind the notes. Her admission to her audience prior to beginning the concert was that she had not performed in them in many, many years. There is a wonderful lesson here for Oakhamian musicians to learn; the value of total immersion and dedication at a young age, for this performance was masterful and learned, yet equally, it was spontaneous and fresh.
The recital is available to watch here.