2023/24 Season 2nd concert – Lara Melda, piano, St. John’s Church

Lara Melda is a young and brilliant pianist currently delighting audiences around Britain, Europe and the antipodes: her career, launched when she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2010 as a 16 year old, continued through college and later with such celebrated mentors as Alfred Brendel. She is now widely recognised as a distinguished performer much in demand both as a soloist and with orchestras.

A broken ankle and then Covid had frustrated previous attempts of Keswick Music Society to book Lara in 2020 and again in 2021, but at last she was here – at St. John’s Church on Saturday November 25th – to give her recital, and a large and enthusiastic audience welcomed her.

Her programme, in effect a survey of 19th century piano music, began with Beethoven’s “Tempest Sonata”, written in 1801 and so called because he once directed a friend who asked about its meaning to ‘read The Tempest’ – and the contrast between the desperate chromatic passages and peaceful interludes could well thus be understood.

Next, came the soaring emotion of Liszt’s Étude ‘Un Sospiro’ (1848): Lara’s mastery of the considerable technical difficulties of this piece was evident throughout with beautiful control and an ethereal ending. 

The first half of the concert ended with two short pieces by Brahms – Intermezzo in A minor and Capriccio in D minor, both written in 1892, and both replete with contrasting moods and drama, amply responded to by the pianist.

After the interval, we were back to the middle of the century with Chopin’s Nocturne in b flat minor (1844) which provided an opportunity for Lara to demonstrate her ability to bring out the sonority of the piano with wonderful cantabile playing in the perfect acoustics of St. John’s. 

Lara’s performance of Chopin’s dramatic 3rd Sonata brought the concert to a magnificent conclusion, with delicate prestissimos, still points and bubbling flights of notes holding the audience spellbound. The sparkling energy and superb tone which she drew from the piano demonstrated her sensitive nuancing and brilliant virtuosity.

The delighted audience showed their appreciation with sustained applause and were rewarded as they hoped with an encore – but, as Lara said to them, after an evening of enjoying the romantic turmoil of 19th century Europe it was perhaps time to remember the contemporary real sufferings of those in the middle east and those ‘who are not with us’. She played Gnossienne No.1 by Eric Satie, a spare and melancholy lament, a contrast to the feast of romantic music, although almost unbelievably written in the same year in which Brahms wrote the Intermezzo.

For their next concert Keswick Music Society feel very fortunate to be able to present a recital by the celebrated pianist Dame Imogen Cooper including music by Schubert, Bach and Beethoven. This will be on January 13th, as always in the outstanding acoustics of St. John’s.