Concert review

Noriko Ogawa (piano)

15th September, 2022


Credit: Harry Gill

The distinguished Japanese pianist Noriko Ogawa was the guest artist for the opening concert of Penrith Music Club’s 79th season. A former prize-winner at the Leeds International Piano Competition, Noriko is an acknowledged interpreter of the music of Debussy, whose first book of Preludes (1910) formed the first half of the programme.

Debussy gave each of the 12 Preludes a title, but only wrote the titles at the end of each piece, allowing the performer and listener to experience the sound world of each individual piece beforehand. The result is an astonishing range of pieces, which held the audience spellbound both by the variety of their imagination and by the quality of their interpretation.

Beginning with an explanation of Debussy’s approach to tonality, the preludes began with the atmospheric Danseurs de Delphes, one of the clearest examples of this Impressionist tonality in the group. Striking contrasts followed – the flimsy, floating textures of Voiles succeeded by the restless turbulence of Le vent dans la plane. The two best-known preludes – the tender portrait of La fille aux cheveux de lin and the dramatic, awesome description of La Cathédrale Engloutie, were played superbly, their effectiveness heightened by the contrasts of the images around them- the suppressed, then unbridled storm of Ce qu’a vu le vent d’oest, stunningly

played, and the quirkiness of La serenade interrompue. The touches of French salon music in Minstrels formed the conclusion of a totally authoritative performance, hugely enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience.

Salon music of an earlier period formed the basis of the second half of the concert. Noriko Ogawa played four pieces by Chopin that would have delighted Parisian society in the 1830s, where Chopin was idolised as “the poet of the piano”.


The wistful, heartfelt Nocturne no.20 in C sharp minor was a, graceful aperitif to the three substantial

pieces that followed. The flamboyant Grande Valse Brillante in E flat offered virtuosity of the highest standard with its astonishing use of acciaccatura textures and breath-taking speed.

The Ballade in G minor was one of Chopin’s most original concepts, very much in the style of an epic poem and moving from the gentle questioning of its opening theme to immense passages requiring formidable skill. Considered to be one of Chopin’s most technically and musically demanding works , Noriko Ogawa’s playing combined sensitivity and authority in another outstanding performance. The gentle, rippling textures of the Andante Spianato, one of Chopin’s most sublime works, followed, leading to the tempestuous Grande Polonaise Brillante with its relentless passages of fingerwork and passionate sense of drama.

Elgar’s tender Salut d’Amour, played as an encore, brought to an end a concert of outstanding musicianship. Penrith Music Club’s international season continues on Monday September 24th with a recital by the Australian soprano Sky Ingram, entitled Bad Girls of Opera and Song.

Colin Marston

Updated on 22nd March 2023
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