Inauguration of the Phoenix Grand Piano at Opus Theatre - Hastings, Saturday 9 September 2017

Opus Theatre have a new, anonymously donated, Phoenix Grand Piano which was inaugurated last Saturday with two, highly contrasted, concerts. It is difficult at this point to avoid clichés as it is a magnificent instrument, superbly responsive in touch with a wide dynamic range completely at one with the fine acoustic of the building.

In the afternoon Anton Lyakhovsky brought us a traditional romantic programme of Schumann and Rachmaninoff. The sound he produced for Schumann’s Arabesque  was baritonal – warm and slightly hazy in impact but in perfect keeping with the work itself. There was no lack of clarity but the balance across the instrument proved here, and later in the day, to be one of its most impressive qualities. Schumann’s Op11 No1 may be less familiar but brought a greater sense of attack without any loss of finesse. The articulation of the Aria was refined before the fierce impact of the Scherzo and the lightning changes of mood of the final movement.

The second half was all Rachmaninoff, opening with two Etudes Tableaux from Op39. The complexity of the writing of No1 held no terrors for either performer or the instrument itself, maintaining clarity even at its most rapid articulation. No3 brought some gentler translucent qualities before we moved into more familiar territory with the Prelude Op23 No25 – given with a real sense of panache.

The afternoon concluded with the Corelli variations and a delicately reflective coda.

The evening brought us Oliver Poole and a total change of both mood and impact. Dressed casually and immediately creating a warm rapport as he introduced his programme to the audience, Oliver is no stranger to Hastings, having played her before (if some years ago!) and living just down the coast.

His programme was a tour do force and one of enormous contrasts. The whole of the first half was given over to Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The immediate impact was startling. Where Anton Lyakhovsky had created a romantic warmth, the Bach was crisp, clear, almost clavichord-like in its impact. I can’t ever recall a Steinway being able to match this level of contrast. The variations sparkled and danced their way through, frequently touching the sublime and occasionally those moments of spiritual enlightenment which seem to arise naturally in Bach at his finest.

This might have been enough in itself but after the interval Oliver Poole introduced us to an arrangement of scenes from Wagner’s Ring cycle. While being entirely pianistic, the orchestral impact of the arrangement was staggering. I can recall hearing versions for four hands which seemed to have fewer notes than we heard here! The Ride of the Valkyries was so intense it recalled images of Franz Liszt with smoke erupting from the piano, so hard was he driving it.

By total contrast the final listed work was Rhapsody in Blue which Oliver clearly plays for his own enjoyment – though it entranced the audience.


A brief toying with the Blue Danube as an encore brought the day to a close, but Polo Piatti was totally justified in his remarks that this superb instrument could be the start of a totally new chapter in the musical life of Hastings.

Dr Brian Hick, Editor, Lark Reviews