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Passionate piano in a picturesque Peninsula setting
Moorooduc Estate was the setting for Peter de Jager's performance of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 23 - the 'Appassionata' - and the contrast between the view through the glass doors of the music room to the grapevines and what was going on inside it could not have been greater.
Outside, the hot, dry air crackled and the smoke haze from the distant bushfires hung over the vines and the parched earth. Inside the purpose-built music room was a storm-tossed sea of roiling emotions. Even the undulating timber ceiling, designed for its acoustics, seemed to mirror the music emanating from Peter de Jager's hands.
And a safe pair of hands they were. Obsessed since the age of five by the 'turbulent emotions' of the Appassionata, de Jager's interpretation was clearly fed by years of analysis of the work, generally acknowledged as one of the composer's 'stormiest'. It demanded the full attention of the audience and received it, if the final applause is any indication.
The late afternoon soiree began with Bach's Partita in E Minor, another Jager favourite. He spoke of it as 'transcending the genre of the Baroque dance suite' with a 'striking, muscular ending'. His delivery was at times deceptively simple, inducing an almost trance-like state in this reviewer, then sharp-edged and attention-seeking.
At times during both performances, player and instrument were so at one it was hard to differentiate between them. That is the gift of Peter de Jager's playing, and the festival audience were the lucky recipients.