The Portsmouth Chamber Music series began its new season with a fine recital featuring Paul Lewis, one of the finest pianists in the world today.
His recordings of the Beethoven sonatas and concertos have become leaders in their field, but here he chose to perform the Opus 126 Bagatelles. These six miniatures were composed alongside the famous Choral Symphony, to which they offer an antidote, being epigrams rather than epic statements.
Their changes of mood were volatile, pitting sudden explosions of sound adjacent to moments of inwardness and peace. It seems Brahms used these Bagatelles as models for his own piano pieces Opus 188, one of several such compositions from the later stages of his career.
The wider keyboard range and the deeper sonorities made a telling effect in the context of the otherwise classical compositions on display. It proved particularly interesting, and somewhat surprising, to begin and end the recital with Haydn. But the two chosen sonatas were perfect for the task, and the extraordinary dexterity of the playing in the Presto finale of the G major sonata could hardly have been more exciting.
No wonder there was a calmer encore, in the form of a Schubert Allegretto.