Tuesday, March 07, 2023


REVIEW: Michael McHale, pianist, at The Large Room courtesy of Waterford-Music


HITTING the 40 age mark is significant. A time for reflection. “Where am I now and what brought me here” floats around the “what ifs” in the inner mind. Belfast’s Michael McHale, one of Ireland’s leading pianists, is pausing for thought and pondering the big hit items in his musical career that have most affected him.

And here he is tonight – looking more like a young-fella than a middle-ager – and his concert hits are nailed-on winners as is his banter with his audience.


‘Two hours of top-class playing from an internationally-renowned pianist’


The Beethoven “Pathetique” is a dream-opener. Everyone knows it and that opening declamatory fanfare marked Grave on the lower keys tells us that we’re setting out on a drama with a roller-coaster of emotion. The slow opening development and the later torrent of individual notes that follow certainly grab the attention. The “Adagio cantabile” that follows on is gentler, more uncertain than its opening , and introduces the romance of the sonata. This Adagio is slow and sensuous with a hint of sadness in the melody and the delicate accompaniment. A further Adagio and subsequent Rondo returns us to the opening themes with busy and dazzling keyboard work from Michael in its fiery finale.

Popular nocturnes from John Field and Chopin provide a soothing interlude. As fragile as glass and as soothing as Aloe Vera, these nocturnes are everything we read on the tin: soothing, consoling, graceful, gliding and restful. The Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet ballet – which originally featured the young lovers dancing off into the sunset – was banned by the Soviet authorities, who insisted on Shakespeare’s ending. However, the piece was reused by the composer for solo piano and the colour pieces of the feisty and loving Juliet, the turbulence of the rival families, the calm and gentle scheming of the meddling Fr. Lorenzo and the fiery Mercutio are all well captured by McHale’s sensitive playing.

The Schubert  “Impromptu no. 4” is a memory-piece of contrasts where sweet memories of times past deceptively transform in moments of pain and sadness. I loved Michael’s playing of the impromptu and the sweetness of the songs that followed from the pens of Augusta Holmes, Clara Schumann and Philip Hammond carried all the romance of Valentine’s week.

Two hours of top-class playing from an internationally-renowned pianist – and one of our own – is a great way to start off the 2023 classical music concerts.

Yet another shout out concert from Waterford Music at the Large Room.

By Pat McEvoy, Arts Correspondent
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

More Views

Phoenix: Dáil differences and debates

Editorial: Mixed emotions on the Cork Road

More by this Journalist

View from the Green Room: A Flawed Pedigree