Review of Grace playing at the Chichester Festival

The News (Portsmouth)


Grace Francis At Chichester Cathedral

Published Date: 30 June 2010

By Mike Allen

How refreshing, in an image-obsessed age, to see an apparently shy, studious young woman approach the piano and then hold an audience enthralled.

Grace Francis built her Chichester Festivities programme on contrasts, in the third sonata by Brahms and between works by Rachmaninov and Liszt.

In Liszt it was a mixture of the religious (Ave Maria) and the fiendish (Mephisto Waltz No 1). A mixture of the Grace of God and the dare of the Devil, you might say.

Ms Francis had the full measure of the Russian qualities of Rachmaninov, too, but the truest measure of her musicianship and technique came in the Brahms.

Anyone hearing it for the first time and knowing nothing about it would find it impossible to say whether it was from the composer’s fierily youthful years or his final reflective phase. In fact it is early (Opus 5), and the never-flashy British pianist plunged into its big ideas with properly explosive passion without sacrificing quality of sound.

But the sonata’s two slow movements represent the music’s heart, and here Ms Francis was equally successful – catching the rapture of the first and the regret of the second.

Throughout the recital, she showed a fine command of long-breathed melodic lines.

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