Pianomorphosis – Will Pickvance
Masterful performance from a virtuoso player
This article is from 2016.
There are points during Will Pickvance's follow-up to Anatomy of the Piano where no words are necessary, where the dexterity and inventive fusion of songs both classical and popular say it all. His performance is a singular blend of virtuosity and humour unlike most others. We say most, because there are overtones of a more reserved and typically British Chilly Gonzales here. The tousled Pickvance is suited and sitting at a crumpled old leather armchair, a little too low and slouchy for his piano-playing position, his tone midway between educational and raconteurish.
At other points you wish for him to start chatting again, to find a break in the relentless, dizzying flow of notes he's hammering out. This is what being a prodigious player in the 21st century looks like, you feel; late evening at the Fringe, in a darkened cell of a room under the dim light of a standard lamp, telling stories of being the house pianist for the rich and famous at Skibo Castle. He was there to provide background to seduction, well paid to 'administrate the notes', whereas now we have to take it on trust he knows all the output of Paul McCartney because if he plays more than a few notes he'll be billed.
Yet Pickvance gets around that problem with masterful ease. It might be said that he plays the music of others throughout, but really it's his own improvisation on a theme which is the star of the show. The opening bars of 'Day Tripper' are repeated and added to, moving off in breathtaking new directions, as are the works of Mozart and Beethoven ('any way you play those notes, it's like he's in the room with us,' says Pickvance of the latter), leaving the impression of an artist trying to connect a highbrow demand for quality with a populist need for amusement.
Summerhall, 560 1581, until 28 Aug (not 15, 22), 8.30pm, £12 (£8).