Benjamin Frith

19:30 on Tuesday, 24th March 2009

Programme

Scarlatti – Sonata in E major K 216
Scarlatti – Sonata in F minor Longo 118
Scarlatti – Sonata in B minor K227
Schumann – Phantasie in C Op 17
Beethoven – Sonata in B flat major Op 106 – Hammerklavier

Benjamin Frith was a northern prodigy who is now an internationally renowned pianist. His repertoire is extensive, ranging from Scarlatti to James MacMillan. He has played with the Berlin Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, CBSO with conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Scrowaczewski, Antoni Wit. He plays regularly with the Gould Piano Trio, is a recording artist with the Naxos label and is a lifetime student of the legendary Dame Fanny Waterman.

Introduced in their programme as a "northern prodigy", the internationally renowned British pianist Benjamin Frith was the recitalist at the final concert of Skipton Music’s season on Tuesday last.

He opened the evening with three sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, a composer with whom he is particularly at home. It was a scintillating start, noteworthy for his outstanding staccato and digital dexterity, together with some beautifully eloquent and languorous passages in the slower movements. The composer might well have been surprised that his harpsichord works had undergone such a translation to a modern piano, but the audience was in no doubt as to the soloist's artistry.

Robert Schumann's Phantasie in C, Op.17, from 1838, a powerful, passionate work of the Romantic period, makes huge physical and emotional demands on the performer. Frith's interpretation showed his mastery of the composer's intentions, displaying virtually a full range of pianistic technique, with wonderfully contrasting dynamics and a notable use of some breath-taking, pregnant silences.

After this, one could have forgiven the pianist if he had chosen a less-demanding work for the second half of the recital. But no, Beethoven’s "Hammerklavier" Sonata in B flat major, Op. 106, is recognized as possibly the ultimate tour de force of the whole piano repertoire. It has been variously described as "terrifying", "of immense difficulty" and "exhaustingly long"! Undaunted and clearly relishing the challenge, the pianist attacked it with complete confidence. His consummate playing held the audience spell-bound throughout all four movements (and two encores) - a memorable and triumphant end to the season.

Douglas Riddiough