Classical review: Susan Tomes, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

SELDOM do you see a pianist on stage dressed as if for the corporate boardroom, but Susan Tomes' business-like appearance chimed with her forensically intellectual approach to Pioneers of the Piano.

Susan Tomes. Picture: Contributed
Susan Tomes. Picture: Contributed

Susan Tomes | Rating: **** | Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Tomes allowed the music speak for itself, delivering the most ravishing interpretations completely unfettered by affectation or indulgence. With barely-there pedalling she left plenty of breathing space for Haydn’s elegant wit to emerge in the Sonata in E minor XVI/34 while her flair for storytelling was well-matched in Schumann’s Papillons Op 2, a richly textured fly-on-the-wall view of a masked ball.

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Visual depictions were also to the fore in Tomes’ fluid and whimsical take on three pieces from Debussy’s Images Series 1. While there was a certain amount of precision and form inherent in the 11 riveting snapshots of the different musical elements which make up Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata, Tomes had the complex tonal clashes ringing like bells and let the inner jazz beats really swing.

This mood continued in rarely performed 1920s salon pieces by Billy Mayerl, which owe much to Scott Joplin rags but possess their own virtuosic charm. Tomes really let rip, rocking the funky riffs in Song of the Fir Tree and the syncopated rhythms in Marigold.

The encores of Nobuo Uematsu’s score from the computer game Final Fantasy 7 and Schumann’s Traumerei further underlined Tomes’ versatility and ability to get under the skin of different musical styles. Returning to Edinburgh after a successful international career, she is a treasure in our midst.