Review: Melvyn Tan, Portsmouth Guildhall

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It is scandalous that the Steinway grand piano bought for Portsmouth by public subscription in 1987 now languishes unused in the central library.

The council should move it to its natural home in the city’s only properly-appointed concert hall.

Still, Melvyn Tan’s recital on another Steinway in the Portsmouth Chamber Music series was masterly, notably in movements from Variations For Judith – music created by various composers as a tribute to Spitalfields Festival director Judith Serota.

The original 2012 set, using a theme made famous by Bach, proved notable for its concise quirkiness and depth of feeling, the latter particularly evident in Jonathan Dove’s contribution.

Later, Tan played five further variations, including a toccata that gives way to reflective lyricism before a final flourish, with composer Julian Grant present to salute Tan’s virtuosity.

Another feature of the recital was the juxtaposition of nocturnes by John Field, who created the genre, and Chopin, who made it sublime. Tan showed exquisite timing in Field’s music, then revelled in the genius of Chopin’s Opus 9 - illustrating his capacity to mould melody, harmony and rhythm into one irresistible unit.