Saturday evening's concert by Scottish pianist Christina Lawrie was a very special event in several respects. Co-promoted by Music Nairn and the Nairn Book and Arts Festival, it was conceived as a memorial concert for Gordon Macintyre, founder of Music Nairn's predecessor the Nairn Performing Arts Guild, and himself the promoter of innumerable concerts at his home, Clifton House. Many in the packed audience had their own special memories of Gordon, who died almost a year ago, and so too did the pianist, who had performed at Clifton and who drew up a programme to reflect her happy memories of Gordon.
The concert opened with a beautifully measured account of Bach's keyboard Partita no 6 in E minor, demonstrating Ms Lawrie's considerable virtuosity. At the heart of this dance suite is a deeply profound Sarabande, in which Bach's lyrical imagination takes remarkable flights of fantasy, while the more lively dance movements had striking energy and poise in this performance. Lawrie's flawless technique was also to the fore in her highly intelligent account of Chopin's 4th Ballade in F. Although they have no specific narrative, Chopin's four Ballades inhabit a romantic musical world of heroic deeds and adventures, which seems ideally suited to Chopin's flamboyant and mercurial compositional style.
The second half of the concert opened with a touching musical narrative, which Christina Lawrie had constructed especially for the memorial evening. Young love in the form of Mendelssohn's Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso led directly to Grieg's Wedding Day in Troldhaugen, then Roger Quilter's louche-harmonied Dance in the Twilight and finally Remembrances, the last of Grieg's Lyric Pieces. The two wonderfully evocative Grieg pieces proved a perfect foil to the rare and lovely piano piece by Quilter, a composer better known for his beautifully crafted songs. The Mendelssohn piece dates from 1824, when the composer was only 15, but was revised into its current form five years later – the formula of calm introduction and tempestuous showpiece became something of a Mendelssohnian trademark. Christina Lawrie's reading combined considerable flair with a wonderfully eloquent approach to Mendelssohn's lyrical lines.
She concluded her performance with a piano showpiece, Schubert's 'Wanderer' Fantasy, a work based on the composer's own song of the same name, and of all his keyboard music the piece which most closely acknowledges his debt to Beethoven. Insistent repeated rhythms seem to haunt every section of this extended showpiece, and Lawrie powerfully conveyed its compulsive almost manic atmosphere. At the end of this touching, involving and thoroughly enjoyable tribute to a much-missed promoter, inspirer and lover of music, she responded to rapturous applause with Christian Sinding's shimmering Rustles of Spring – I feel sure Gordon would have loved it all!