Piano Classics

David Quigley's debut recording as a solo artist is a vivid advertisement of how winningly he is playing at present

Crisp, elegant, sophisticated: the pair of short, single-movement sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti which open Camlough-born pianist David Quigley’s new CD are delightfully turned performances, full of technical élan and a lively if unobtrusive sense of humour.

Though Piano Classics is Quigley’s debut recording as a solo artist, he has wide experience as a performer on the international circuit, and it shows in the assurance with which he flits between different styles and periods in this multi-composer recital.

The right-hand work in Debussy’s 'Arabesque No.1' has the delicacy of lace spun into intricate patterns, with that elusive mix of classical poise and lightly perfumed romantic sensibility so typical of this composer.

Rachmaninov’s Polichinelle, by contrast, is given a boldly percussive performance, vaulting acrobatically from the page in a graphically colourful realisation. The same composer’s 'Prelude' in C sharp minor gets a tumultuous rendition, Quigley tucking into the work’s boomingly sonorous chordings, drawing huge bass resonances from the excellent Steinway grand piano he uses for the sessions.

This type of late romantic repertoire, with its volcanic emotional gestures, is, you sense, Quigley’s favoured territory. He plays it with genuine empathy, clearly relishing the considerable technical difficulties.

The strong kinetic qualities of Quigley’s playing are evident in 'Sinding’s The Rustle of Spring', a relatively unfamiliar piece where he evokes the vigorous gusting of spring-time breezes and the busy rush of foliage with pictorial relish.

There’s more impressive virtuosity in the demanding 'Polonaise' in A major by Chopin. The left-hand skirls are pleasingly elastic in Quigley’s interpretation, while he has stacks of the sheer muscularity needed to punch the piece’s biggest climaxes out confidently.

There’s an engaging swagger to this 'Polonaise' performance too, and Quigley manages the work’s exuberantly rhetorical gestures without coarsening his tone, an easy banana skin to slip on in boldly extroverted music.

Quigley can also be convincingly introspective when necessary. His 'Chopin Nocturne' in C sharp minor is a searching interpretation, the right-hand trills no longer merely ornamental, but nervily expressive of the music’s sadness and disquietude.

A pair of Gershwin pieces, 'The Man I Love' and 'Love Walked In', complete the programme. They highlight Quigley’s fluid sense of rubato, his natural unravelling of melodies, and the sheer quality of the sound he makes at the piano, pleasingly alluring but not prettified.

I’d gladly swap Quigley’s efficient but unexceptional account of the over-played 'Adagio Sostenuto' from Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata for a couple more shorter pieces.

But that’s a personal preference: overall this CD is a vivid advertisement for how winningly David Quigley is playing at present, and how far the Camlough pianist, now in his mid-thirties, has travelled artistically since the days when he was delighting and exciting Newry Feis audiences as a promising youngster.

Soundclips from Piano Classics can be heard on Quigley’s website, where the disc can also be purchased.