Martin James Bartlett – 17th January 2020


Photo by Marian Pearson (More images below)

Audience comments:

  • ‘A controlled explosion of sound! What a talent!’

  • ‘I always thought I could play the piano. Not after tonight! Matrin James Bartlett is fantastic. First half ( Bach No 1 and Scriabin) really moved me.’

  • ‘A stunning performance from a lively, joyous young man.’

  • Wide ranging programme. Rather wittier than expected. Excellent pianist (unsurprisingly).

Review by Clive Davies
THIRD-PARTIES were in evidence when Martin James Bartlett made a return visit to the Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire Concert Society. His programme at the Outwood Academy, Foxhills, – the first event in 2020, in the society’s 70th season – featured a selection of pieces written by one composer and then arranged by another.

Thus Martin began with a Bach Choral Prelude as re-voiced by Busoni, and continued with Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring in the familiar arrangement by Myra Hess. This young and highly-regarded soloist made such a favourable impression on his earlier visit to Scunthorpe that his entrance was greeted with an almost palpable wave of warmth and approbation. There is much to be said for keeping in touch with old friends. He responded in kind, prefacing various pieces with an easy-going, amiable and informative introduction. His eclectic spread of offerings included Mozart’s F Major Sonata K332 and a brief but intriguing piece (Sensation: She Hears) by a contemporary British composer Julian Anderson. The first half of the recital concluded with Scriabin’s Fourth Piano Sonata, an electrifying work full of passion and tumult, navigated with conspicuous virtuosity and engagement by the performer.

If there were to be a unifying theme in this recital of diverse pieces and disparate voices, then Love and Death might have been the watchwords, (As it happens, this coupling of nouns chances to be the title of Bartlett’s latest and recently released CD, which features some of the works heard in Scunthorpe.)

Liszt was a prominent presence in the second segment of the concert, with a performance of his masterful Petrarch Sonnet and his arrangements of Schumann and Wagner. This afforded the opportunity to savour the Liebestod transcription, Liszt’s distillation from the Wagner opera score that has so influenced musicians and writers through the years. (A short story by Thomas Mann, Tristan, cautions against mixing courtship with piano-playing.)

In the same vein, Bartlett touched on the sad story of the Spanish composer Enrique Granados, who had the grim misfortune to be on the wrong ferry at the wrong time, when it was torpedoed in the English Channel in 1916, yet he played the composer’s El Amor y la Muerte (Love and Death) from the Goyescas Suite with such vitality, commitment and affirmation as to banish all but the darkest thoughts.

A winning poker-hand of Gershwin favourites concluded the recital on a foot-tapping upbeat. Persistent applause coaxed the pianist back to the keyboard for an encore, and for the sweetest draught of Schumann’s Traumerei.