Live review: East Neuk Festival, Paul Lewis, Bowhouse, by St Monans, four stars

Bowhouse, by St Monans, Fife

Keith Bruce

four stars

The weather on the Fife Coast had deteriorated as the masked and socially estranged audience from this year’s last live recital at this year’s East Neuk Festival walked out of the Bowhouse, to be greeted by the Dick Lee trio playing Duke’s trailer Ellington.

Lee, on soprano saxophone, trombonist Chris Grieve and Phil Adams on banjo had enjoyed a sunnier pitch on St Monans East Pier at lunchtime, when the Band in a Van festival’s response to the restrictions of the Pandemic explored the jazz legacy of Fats Waller to Charlie Parker with a stylistic verve that challenged the compact lineup.

The star name of the Bowhouse program, making its festival debut, was pianist Paul Lewis, whose Saturday night and Sunday afternoon appearances drew as many ticket buyers as the festival was allowed to accommodate.

Working with the absence of intervals and a direct recital program, Lewis delivered two contrasting experiences, in an atmosphere very different from that of the venue in previous years.

While it had often been noticed how well the large agricultural shed adapts to different chamber music, it is undeniable that this is a different place with less body to soften the acoustics and the stage. located further down in the middle of one of the longer walls. Lewis worked with these limitations for a representation of Mussorgsky’s Painting in an exhibition that took no prisoners.

It was the culmination of a program that began with Mozart’s Sonata in A K331 which was beautifully crafted but suffered from the resonance of the building, and included Five Scriabin Preludes from which the pianist launched directly into the Promenade. opening of Mussorgsky.

There were some awkward moments to hear in Lewis’s Pictures, but these will be remembered for the astonishing speed of the Unhatched Chicks Ballet and the Limoges Market sections and the rock-solid power of the Hut of Baba’s arrival. Yaga and the Great Doors of Kiev.

The Sunday afternoon recital was a very different affair, with a gentler Lewis and audience ears perhaps more attuned to the environment. Beginning with the rather unusual Adagio Mozart in B minor, it featured five Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn before the powerful Sonata in B by Schubert, the most exuberant composer.

The pianist added a generous reminder of Schubert’s quieter Allegretto in C minor, perhaps as a reminder that the lives of these three composers were tragically cut short.

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