Nicholas McCarthy at Opus Theatre

Opus Theatre, Hastings, 13 April 2018

When Polo Piatti launched Opus Theatre not many could have imagined that we would have a series of concerts by some of the finest young pianists in the world today. Thanks to the acquisition of the Opus Phoenix grand piano and sterling support both from Phoenix and other philanthropists, to say nothing of the willingness of professional pianists to perform in smaller venues to smaller audiences, Nicholas McCarthy gave the first recital of the new season – setting an exemplary standard for the series as well as instant rapport with his audience.

This would normally be more than enough to excite an audience but when one realises that he has no right arm and that all the works we heard were given with left hand only, the outcome is extraordinary.

In very relaxed fashion he led us through the world of piano compositions for left hand – ranging from Brahms’ amazing arrangement for Clara Schumann of Bach’s Chaconne in D to the lovely anecdote of Fumagalli’s left hand only arrangements as he preferred to use his right to hold his cigar!

The range of works tended towards the romantic, with richly effective compositions by Richard Strauss, Felix Blumenfeld and Scriabin, but included Bach. The suites for solo cello are easily adapted for left hand, and the Prelude from the first cello suite was particularly effective and beautifully phrased. There was also a new commission from Nigel Hess – a delightful and deeply atmospheric Nocture.

Nicholas McCarthy had opened the concert with an arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Springwaters and ended with his own adaptation of the same composer’s familiar Prelude in G minor. Looking at the original score it should not be possible to reproduce the composer’s torrent of notes with one hand but this is exactly what Nicholas McCarthy does,  and what’s more makes it seem so easy. Such is the professionalism of the finest artists.

Anton Lyakhovsky will perform tonight, Saturday 14 April, and next week end brings Sunny Li and Oliver Poole. All details on the Opus Theatre website

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