Warzycki proves that having a disability is no hindrance to virtuosic piano playing. Suffering from a debilitating neurological condition that has impaired the use of his right hand, for one night only he performed a difficult programme of pieces using just the left hand.

His technique and agility are superb, but there are undoubtedly limitations to what can be achieved. Many of the pieces performed were etudes that lacked melodic inventiveness amongst the intense contrapuntal textures. That said, the chosen pieces certainly pushed these limitations to the extreme.

Warzycki opened with his own arrangements of some movements from Bach’s solo string suites, including the celebrated Prelude from his Suite No. 1 in G major for solo cello. He is certainly a great interpreter of Bach’s music, playing with melodic clarity, but the richness of the cello timbre was missed, the implied harmonies sounding bare in comparison to more conventional piano repertoire. An impassioned Sarabande from the cello Suite No. 6 followed, before a fast-paced rendition of the Chromatic Fantasia in D minor.

The 20th century Austrian composer Jeno Takacs’ Toccata and Fugue for piano left hand bears similarities to Bach’s work. The dissonant, modern harmonies elevate it from mere pastiche, but the technical elements overshadow any melodic inventiveness, though Warzycki’s playing was fine.

Saint-Saens’ Six Études pour la main gauche seule followed. Written by a master tunesmith, this piece is structured as a Baroque suite. Though light in tone, the pieces technically stretch the performer which Warzycki coped assuredly. The Lisztian Elegie was a particularly grand and emotional display that stood out from the other movements.

The subsequent Elegy for the left hand alone by Polish-American composer Leopold Godowsky featured some emotive and sensitive playing, whilst the Etude Macabre was suitably intense. Warzycki chose some Chopin etudes (arranged by Godowsky) as a finale for the recital, which are successful replications of the standard two-handed style. These really push the boundaries of single-handed playing with some fiendish technicalities. As the programme suggested, Chopin may have been appalled at this treatment of his work, but to the listener Warzycki’s performance was hugely impressive.

The overall programme did lack variety, emphasising technique over melody, but for sheer technical marvel Warzycki is unsurpassed.

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The Blurb

A dazzling programme of virtuoso piano works for left hand that Stefan Warzycki will also perform in Russia and Japan, including his own arrangement of Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Saint-Saëns’s charming Six Studies.  

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