by Neil Lock
Originally published by the Libertarian Alliance
I was at John Kersey’s piano recital on Saturday May 16th 2015 in Chingford parish church, London E4. The size of the audience was disappointing; perhaps 50 or maybe 60. But I wasn’t disappointed by the experience.
Let me tell you where I come from (musically, not politically). I’m no pianistic expert, but I am a musician. I’ve played in a brass band for more than 40 years. For most of that time my main instrument has been the euphonium; but about 7 years ago, my band suffered a sudden shortage of bass players. So, these days I play the E flat bass tuba.
Oh yes, and I’m also, in my own small way, a composer and arranger for brass band. That tends to give me a wider perspective on the music I hear than most listeners.
Now to John Kersey’s recital. The echoing acoustic of the church, I thought, didn’t help the percussive effects in the opening Bach prelude and fugue. But maybe there was a bit of my own bias in play as well. For church music isn’t really my thing. And Bach, while I recognize his genius, is a little early for my taste.
I was on more comfortable ground with the late Beethoven which followed. There were moments, in the last movement of the Sonata in E major, when I felt briefly transported into another world. Few composers, and few performers, can do that to me.
With the Bagatelles, John Kersey showed us how good a technician he is. I particularly enjoyed the second and fifth of the six pieces.
After the very brief interval, two Fauré barcarolles were not my personal cup of tea. But they paved the way for what I expected to be the highlight: Alkan’s “Symphonie pour piano.” I’d heard this piece on recordings before, but never live.
In the first movement, John Kersey set himself a challenging tempo, and didn’t overdo the rubato. The result was spectacular. Even on its own, to hear that movement was worth going all the way to Chingford for. The third movement was even better. As to the last movement, just before the end I found myself writing in the little A6 book I carry with me what became the following words:
“John Kersey conveyed superbly to the audience the manic energy and sheer horror of the ride through hell on which Alkan takes us.”
I cannot praise John Kersey’s performance highly enough. And I recommend that all of you who enjoy 19th century music should look out for his next recital, and go to it.