JS Bach, Beethoven and Chopin at St Peter's Church: was this the best recital of the current series?
The April recital in the ‘Brilliant Young Pianists at Saint Peter’s Church’ series was given by Kausikan Rajeshkumar, who was born in London in 1990. Kausikan was offered scholarships at both the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music, but chose to read music at Cambridge graduating with a first class honours degree.
He was one of the piano finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competitions in 2006 and 2008, before winning the International Franz Liszt Prize for Young Pianists in 2009. Among his many engagements in Great Britain and elsewhere in Europe, he performed in the Royal College of Music ‘s ‘Rising Stars’ series at the Cadogan Hall.
He began his Marlborough recital with JS Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No.18 which was published in the first volume of his ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’. Written in a minor key, the work is sombre and reflective.
Brilliantly crafted, the first movement is a rising thematic figure passed from one hand to another, and played with such clarity as to clearly expose the structure of the movement. The stately fugue that followed was played with feeling and delicacy - the notes flowing seamlessly from Kausikan’s hands.
This was followed by a late Beethoven Sonata: No.30 in E Major. What a contrast in tonality. The bright major key creating a dramatically different mood from the Bach. The first movement is lyrical and flowing, creating a sense of tenderness which is suddenly shattered by the demotic opening chords of the powerful prestissimo.
The last movement begins with a wonderful plangent melody, surely one of the finest that Beethoven wrote.
This then heralds a series of variations of increasing complexity, one of which is so rich in counterpoint as to be reminiscent of JS Bach. Finally calm is restored and the initial melody returns, lovingly and gently played, Kausikan’s whole body enfolded in the music. This was a performance of great intensity and passion.
The second half of the concert was largely devoted to Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestucke (Fantasy Pieces.) These were inspired by a series of novellas written by the German author Hoffman and were dedicated to a young Scottish pianist. The eight miniatures are very varied, some are reflective and elegiac, others more agitated and passionate.
The wind can be heard gently rustling in the trees in ‘In der Nacht’ while ‘Traumes Wirren’ is a joyous and effervescent riot of notes. ‘Ende von Lied’ begins in great solemnity and then appropriately, dies away to nothing. Kuasikan played these with grace and sensitivity, highlighting the contrast in mood, but always retaining the emotional intensity which these pieces demand.
Two pieces of Chopin completed the programme. The Etude Opus 10 No. 8 is a showy piece, requiring great skill from the pianist. This was fireworks from beginning to end - Kausikan’s hands racing up and down the keyboard in an endless cascade of notes. It was played with consummate skill and confidence.
The Polonaise-Fantasie Opus 61 is quite different. Said to be one of the finest of Chopin’s works, it is a profound and very complex piece, gentle and nostalgic for the most part with a lovely lyrical and calm middle section. The contrast between the fiery outbursts and the reflective and serene moments was beautifully articulated.
It was a lovely concert with a rich variety of musical styles, and there were many who thought that this was the best they had heard in the series. Kausikan played with musicality, passion and confidence demonstrating a deep understanding of each composer’s intentions. We wish him well in his career.