International talent meets special instrument

Belgium-based concert pianist Catherine Geels performs at the Alexander Pianos showroom in...
Belgium-based concert pianist Catherine Geels performs at the Alexander Pianos showroom in Dunedin on Saturday night. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
It was a sell-out on Saturday evening at the Alexander Pianos showroom (King Edward Court) for Belgium pianist Catherine Geels' recital entitled "A Journey on Love" - a special performance by an international pianist on the longest piano (5.7m) in the world.

Proximity to the massive instrument was exciting. and patrons could see, hear and almost feel every vibe from the mammoth piano, as Geels worked her way through a programme of classical repertoire, introducing each to explain the particular shade of love captured in her selected pieces.

From the first work To Inspire Love, by Spanish composer Mompou, the profound depth of pianoforte bass tone was riveting, but treble clarity was also achievable with clear definition in pieces such as Butterflies Don't Die (Tasset) and Salome, by 19th century composer Melanie Bonis, who wrote under the pseudonym of "Mel" Bonis, hiding her gender to ensure publication and acceptance of her music.

Ballade, by Clara Schumann, and the celebrated Arabesque Op.18 by Robert Schumann gave recognition to their painful and desperate love story.

As thick textures of intensifying passion rose magnificently from the depths of the behemoth to envelop all, I thought "Who needs a Steinway and a large concert hall?"

Beethoven's Sonata Op.81a received stylistic delivery with astute pedalling, and Debussy's Clair de Lune was successfully highlighted with subtle overtones, but Geels absolutely revelled in the intense resonating capabilities of the instrument in Chopin's message of "Impossible Love" in Ballade No. 1 Op.23 and Funerailles by Liszt.

Thunderous bass resonance and an amazing release of harmonics in the full chordal climaxes were an exceptional experience for the listener, and I suspect too for the performer, who had requested Dunedin in her tour especially to perform on this unique instrument built by Adrian Mann.

 - Elizabeth Bouman 

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