Martin Roscoe at Portsmouth Central Library

Katherine Ryan

REVIEW: Katherine Ryan at the Portsmouth Guildhall

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What a rare treat to hear an international-class pianist play the Steinway bought for Portsmouth in 1988 by public subscription.

Margaret Roberts, who led that campaign and sponsored this Music in the Round event, was there to admire Martin Roscoe’s ego-free playing - sometimes barnstorming, sometimes infinitely delicate.

I have heard smoother performances of Beethoven sonatas but neither the Pathetique, which opened the programme, nor the Appassionata, which closed it, is meant for smoothness.

Roscoe’s playing had massive power when needed but equally crucial was his mastery of balance and colour, with inner voices always making their mark.

A skilfully-sculpted programme also included pairs of related works by Schumann and Debussy, and the main impression was made by Roscoe’s forthright approach to the latter, with none of the wishy-washy colours adopted by some pianists. In Children’s Corner, his characterisation of such pieces as Jimbo’s Lullaby and Golliwog’s Cakewalk was as entertaining as his spoken introduction.

In Schumann’s Kinderszenen, he achieved admirable fluency between the short sections. Traumerei spoke aptly of another world and the finale was aptly enigmatic.