The 2019 Don Huntley Memorial Piano Recital in the Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts las t Saturday evening fulfilled all expectations. It was a spectacular demonstration of Magnificent piano music delivered with power and subtlety. Stefan Cassomenos consistently puts together programs of great interest, bringing unusual music or familiar music presented in a totally unexpected way. There is always a challenge for the listener.
The recital opened with Liszt's paraphrase of the overture to Wagner's opera Tannhauser. As an orchestral work it remains very familiar but rarely heard in this form. The lyrical first part was well-shaped to naturally build into the fireworks that that keep building until its grand conclusion. Cassomenos had reserves of technique to satisfy the musical demands.
The first Mephisto Waltz of Liszt continued the dramatic energy of the program. For all its technical challenges it remains one of the most popular of the Liszt's virtuosic pieces. The rhythmic drive and contrasts were fully realized, with a well-prepared and thoughtful middle section.
The final work, Liszt's transcription of Beethoven's first symphony, highlighted the skills of Liszt and Cassomenos. The character of Beethoven's writing could be heard in the transcription and its execution as the dramatic shape and structure of each movement provided a complete musical journey.
Ballarat Grammar student Cooper Harwood displayed great maturity in his supporting program at the commencement of the evening. Works by Haydn, Liszt and Tchaikovsky were presented with musicality and style while the George Shearing jazz arrangement of Harold Arlen's Over the Rainbow was outstanding.