Sibelius 10 Pieces for Piano, op. 58
Mustonen Piano Sonata no. 1
Prokofiev Children’s Album, op. 65
Prokofiev Sonata no. 6 in A major, op. 82
Great Hall Queen’s University, Belfast
Audiences for chamber music in Belfast are small. This is disappointing when the Belfast Music Society is presenting international artists of the calibre of Finnish pianist/composer Olli Mustonen as on the afternoon of Sunday 16th February in the Great Hall of Queen’s University, Belfast.
The Ten Pieces for Piano op.58 by Sibelius which opened Mustonen’s recital are not often heard nowadays. The performer had obvious national sympathies with these inconsequential miniatures which benefitted from his perfect if somewhat brittle clarity of thought and technique.
Mustonen produces a seriously wide range of dynamics, his tone beautiful in the soft ranges but harsh and percussive at the loud end. His own Sonata No.1 explored the instrument’s sonorities very effectively in an exciting variety of episodes, sometimes intensely rhythmic, sometimes grandly homophonic but always showing the pianist’s unique ability to project the multi-layered texture of his writing.
The concert’s second half was devoted to Prokofiev whose Children’s Album op.65 displayed the composer’s imaginative approach to technical challenges for young pianists in a set of twelve pieces. Mustonen caught the moments of naive humour and gentle quirkiness; it was a pity there were no children in the audience to hear how these pieces can be played. The Sixth Sonata which finished this recital was a technical tour de force, full of the verve and energy suited to Mustonen’s fiery, volatile and idiosyncratically physical pianism.