Jayson Gillham

2Tuesday 5 February 2014


BeethovenSonata No. 30 in E major, Op.109
ScriabinTwo Études
ScriabinTwo poèmes, Op.32
ScriabinSonata No. 4 in F-sharp major, Op.30
ChopinNocturne in E-flat major, Op.55 No.2
ChopinTwelve Études, Op.10

A graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Jayson relocated to London in 2007 to pursue a Master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Music.

Jayson captured the hearts and interest of music lovers across Britain with his performances in the 2012 Leeds International Piano Competition at which he was a prizewinner.


A programme solely of Romantic piano music is invariably perceived as unusual. One traditionally expects to travel from Bach via Mozart to Beethoven and beyond. And so I went to this concert anticipating a run-of-the mill 'student' performance played by an immature pianist. Jayson Gillham is twenty seven years old and within the spectrum of piano recitalists, below thirty years of age ranks as an infant!

He began with the notoriously difficult Beethoven Sonata in E Major Opus 109. It is a work in which Beethoven exploits the instrument and propels the performer into regions that even today tax not only the piano but also the performer's technique and intellectual musicality to the limit.

From the opening bars it was obvious that Jayson Gillham's command of piano technique is so accomplished that it is purely a vehicle through which he projects his astonishing musicality and interpretation. For a young player to have such maturity and insight is a rare and wonderful attribute.

The Sonata was followed by Two Etudes, Two Poems and Sonata in F sharp major by Scriabin (1872-1915).

Scriabin bridges the gap between Chopin, Liszt and the Twentieth Century. His music is not to everyone's taste because many feel abandoned on the 'top of the bridge' and find it difficult to identify with the amalgam of genres. Is it Chopin, 'gone wrong' or Rachmaninov on an exploratory excursion into an unknown terrain?

Technically Scriabin is extraordinarily difficult to play and verges on being too rich in the strong middle register of the keyboard. Most pianists tend to ram down the sustaining pedal in order to cope with the enormous technical demands.

Jason Gillham's keyboard skill was barely challenged and he solved the problem of balance, fudging and blurring by using the middle pedal. This is the first time I have heard any Skipton recitalist deploy the middle pedal on the Society's Yamaha. Indeed, the pianists' standard joke is, that the pedal is there' to keep one's feet apart'! However its purpose is to sustain a single note which cleans out an overall mushy noise.

This method of capturing the single note with this device is tricky and often beyond the grasp of most pianists, - hence the, 'feet apart' quip. With such advanced technique it followed that Mr Gillham had total control of his piano. He deployed the mechanism with mastery and consequently Scriabin's harmony and textures were tonally explored and enriched by his expertise.

After the interval it was Chopin.

When I looked at the programme I was dreading this, having heard poor Chopin churned out and imitated by attempts of pianists to copy old recordings! But there was no bland imitation in Jason Gillham's interpretation. The Nocturne in Eb major was a delight and was delivered as a reflection of Chopin's ,'Barcarolle'.

The Etudes, Op 10. were fresh and sparkling and the performance opened a newly invigorated world of music that has been hammered and hackneyed by so many people since it was first performed.

Even, 'Sparky's Magic Piano' (The Revolutionary Study)was elevated from the showy mundane to musical magic.

As an encore, he played, 'The Grand Polonaise'. It was stunning.

After the recital I overheard a well-informed member of the audience say,

"That concert had, 'The WOW factor.'"

Oh yes! And how!

This young gentleman has it all, - not only a splendid stage presence but he attains the apogee of piano recital playing.

Adrienne Fox