- December 8, 2018
Local pianist Jon Byrne has taken three years off from solo performance, dealing with personal grief which he freely shares with us. But it soon becomes clear that this extended break has fuelled a major leap in his performance. There is a new maturity to his playing, better balance and a passionate intensity. His first piece Farewell to Stromness by Peter Maxwell Davies is a contemplative air, rich in Scottish charm – and it brings forth Byrne’s gentler touch. So too with Impromptu 6 by Sibelius, a fascinating work in waltz time that continues the contemplative theme that seems so poignant as Jon describes how the last three years have affected him both personally and now quite clearly in his playing.
Since the age of 17 Byrne has wanted to perform Rachmaninov’s Sonata 2. He describes it as a work that mirrors so many of his own emotions and doubts. Rachmaninov wrote then withdrew and later re-published the piece, fearing at time that is was simply too difficult for anyone to play. Byrne is pretty fearless and hi playing of this complex piece certainly demonstrates that. Taking the first and later editions and using the bridges that were created inn the interim period Byrne has created his very own and very impressive edition. Byrne playing is powerful, he acknowledges this and warns the people in the front rows that it might be like sitting too close to a killer whale exhibition. But that volume is balanced, employed to great dramatic effect when needed but suppressed when a sense of gentle calm is required. This is a virtuosic performance of both immense skill but also incredible sensitivity. Byrne is back and one has to hope that he will be returning very soon to the performance platform.