Saturday, 22 February 2014

Tom Poster’s debut recital for Champs Hill Records is a sheer joy

Tom Poster won First Prize at the Scottish International Piano Competition 2007, the Ensemble Prize at the Honens International Piano Competition 2009, and the keyboard sections of the Royal Over-Seas League and BBC Young Musician of the Year Competitions in 2000.

Born in 1981, he studied with Joan Havill at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he held a Postgraduate Fellowship, and at King’s College, Cambridge, where he gained a Double First in Music.

Since his London concerto debut at the age of 13, Poster has appeared in a wide-ranging concerto repertoire of over 30 major works, including Beethoven with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, Brahms and Ligeti with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Robin Ticciati, Chopin with the European Union Chamber Orchestra, Grieg with the Hallé at Bridgewater Hall and the China National Symphony in Beijing, John Ireland with the State Capella Philharmonic in St Petersburg, Rachmaninov with the BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier and BBC Scottish Symphony/James Loughran, Schumann with the Atlantic Classical Orchestra in Florida, Beethoven Triple with Southbank Sinfonia/Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Scott Bradley’s Cat Concerto with Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon.

Poster features regularly on BBC Radio 3 as soloist and chamber musician, and appeared in both capacities at the BBC Proms in 2008, 2009 and 2011. He has appeared as guest expert in BBC Four’s coverage of the Leeds International Piano Competition.

He has already made a number of chamber music recordings with such artists as Jennifer Pike, Doric String Quartet and the Aronowitz Ensemble on such labels as Chandos and Sonimage.

Tom Poster’s debut recital for Champs Hill Records entitled In Dance and Song, has just been released and covers a wide range of repertoire from Gluck to Gershwin by way of Schubert, Ravel and Bartok.

It is with Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice, in its transcription by Giovanni Sgambati, that Poster opens this recital providing fine clarity with silken, limpid playing in Gluck’s melting theme, so sensitively phrased. An absolute delight.

Poster follows this with three pieces from Grieg’s Slåtter– Norwegian Peasant Dances, Op72 with, again, his clarity and fine phrasing being applied to Bridal March from Telemark, rising to the more dynamic passages with a natural energy and power. Poster builds The Goblin’s Bridal Procession at Vossevangen nicely with some beautiful little trills in this fine performance. The phrasing in Prillar from the Parish of Os shows how he is inside Grieg’s rhythms with a sensitively judged coda.

With Bartok’s Three Folksongs from the Csík District, BB 45B Poster goes straight into Bartok’s style of piano writing with his beautiful pacing, phrasing and clarity, drawing so much from Rubato, as he does in L’istesso tempo, showing these to be miniature gems. I love the way he draws back slightly, to such great effect. Finally in these three pieces there is a sparkling Poco vivo, a delight, direct yet with subtle little inflections.

Schubert ‘s Impromptu in G flat major, D.899 No.3 has an intimacy that is often lacking, surely this is a quality that Schubert would have approved of. Poster holds the delicate ebb and flow beautifully, drawing some lovely colours from his instrument.

This pianist has a distinct approach to Chopin whose Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op.61 receives a beautifully shaped performance that brings something of an epic stance This more direct and volatile approach opens up new aspects of the music. It is not at all without its poetic moments such as halfway through where these is a kind of powerful hushed restraint. In the fiery section towards the end, Poster shows what a fine technique he has.

Poster gives us three pieces by Kurtag from Jatekok (Games), bringing his sense of poetry to Hommage à Farkas Ferenc (2): Scraps of a colinda melody – faintly recollected with a bell like clarity, superb phrasing and pacing. Quite exquisite. Hommage à Farkas Ferenc (3): Evocation of Petrushka is superbly done with some fine percussion effects in this miniature. The extremely brief Hommage à Nancy Sinatra also has a fine touch to end these pieces.

It is Poster’s disarming directness that brings so much to Ravel’s Pavane pour une Infante Défunte, letting the music speak for itself, which it does to great effect. Again there is a subtlety in his poetic moments, so much more affective for this. It is lovely the way he allows the phrases to unfold. He has a beautiful touch that can, again, be heard in Ravel’s Ondine (from Gaspard de la Nuit), lovely rippling phrases with subtle colourings as well as lovely broad sweeps of sound as the work develops. An absolute joy.

As if we were not already aware of his versatility, Poster shows that he excels in his Schumann too, with Two Songs. Widmung has a lovely rubato and such a singing quality. His light touch shows again in the central section that is quite stunning.  Frühlingsnacht, with its odd little halting, staccato phrases and rhythms, is beautifully done.

If there was any doubt as to Poster’s virtuosic strain, then this performance of Stravinsky’s La Semaine Grasse (from Petrushka) will prove his credentials. This is a tremendous performance, shifting between Stravinsky’s varying moods and tempi with ease. There is virtuosity, poetry, sensitivity, sheer panache, with this pianist alive to every little twist and turn. Poster’s superb control of dynamics and overall structure makes this a formidable achievement.

Gershwin’s Someone to watch over me (from Oh, Kay!), in an effective transcription by Tom  Poster, proves to be the perfect ‘encore’ with Poster’s silken, beautifully phrased playing.

It is impressive how Poster moves from composer to composer with consummate ease. Poster seems to draw the listener into his concept of how these pieces should be played. This recital is a sheer joy.

The recording is clear and with plenty of space around the piano and  there are informative booklet notes by Tom Poster.

Champs Hill, can we please hear more from Tom Poster?

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