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Remarkable precision and power of expression

Pianist Gil Sullivan convinces with his guest performance

His piano playing is stamped with expressive power, a touch which displays remarkable precision. The Australian concert pianist Gil Sullivan – one of the greats in his homeland - appeared as guest at the invitation of the International F Chopin Music Academy - Germany.

Gil Sullivan has seen the great concert halls and played in the New York Carnegie Hall, in the Berlin and Vienna Konzerthauses, and in the  Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, plus the Art Center of Chicago. Now he has also found the path to Lahr and thankfully performed for a sold out audience of 1,500. Bozena Ficht-Maciejowska, the founder and director of the International F Chopin Music Academy had invited him in the previous year, having met him in Seoul in Sth Korea. In 2006, for Mozart’s 250th birthday, Sullivan, who by the way speaks excellent German, includes all that composer’s piano works in his repertoire. To begin his concert he played Mozart’s sonata K332 in F. Light-footed and elegant, in the middle part, full of sensibility, Sullivan kindled the fervour and ardour of the 22yr old Mozart at the time of its composition. Following immediately were 3 works by the Australian composer Miriam Hyde. Gil Sullivan dived into a pictorial, poetic - though still expressive - tonal world in which Australian and English landscapes manifested themselves, including a raging thunderstorm.

The excursion in the spirit of late romantic tonal language provided scope for Beethoven’s sonata no.29, the famous and notoriously labelled as ‘unplayable’ “Hammerklavier”, which was performed for the first time decades after Beethoven’s death, by Liszt. Especially the last 2 movements demand technical brilliance and the highest degree of concentration. Sullivan made an indelible and truly unforgetable impression with his astonishing accuracy, enticing from the keys of the grand piano, an almost blinding fireworks display of technical and musical brilliance!

Impressive Beethoven Interpretation              

The Australian pianist GS convinces in his concert.....

DARMSTADT....” you have a sonata which will give pianists something to work at....” Beethoven wrote in 1819, as he sent the piano sonata no.29 to his publisher.  And indeed the ‘Hammerklavier sonata is Beethoven’s most difficult work for piano. Interpreter of the first public performance, decades after Beethoven’s death, was Franz Liszt. Now Gil Sullivan impressed, in the Darmstadter Orangerie, with an interpretation that brought out the personal element of this sonata.

With breathtakingly light playing and complete technical security, the pianist took the first movement with all the power and impact which, among others, through the contrast-rich main theme and the energetic, almost unending harmonic and contrapuntal curving surges, is built into the composition, and brought out the fine nuances of this over-dimensional work.

The third movement with its simply embossed melody, he played with deeply felt and touching dedication, while in the Finale, his stunning accuracy was dazzlingly brilliant with the stormy fugue.

Also in Mozart’s KV332 sonata, Sullivan pleased with light-hearted playing which allowed Mozart’s roguish and mischievous character to burst out. Due to intelligently placed tempo rubatos, one after another, thematic ideas seemed to appear and grow.

As contrast, the only Australian fully professional concert pianist delivered three landscape portraits of his homeland: the pieces of Miriam Hyde (1913-2005) allowed pictures of strange, wild landscapes to flow past us, and the public was enthused and delighted by this Australian impressionism.

Mr. Sullivan [is] a pianist possessed of supreme intelligence and phenomenal technical prowess in equal measure.

"Sullivan's superlative technique, seen close up, is a recital in itself"

"Gil Sullivan’s talent is breathtaking. Music you may have heard before -- perhaps many times before -- takes on new meaning and presence when he interprets it. He holds audiences spellbound with the music, and fascinated with the stories. He is an exceptional performer in every way."

Mozart and Chopin – a dream becomes sound

Concert with the Australian pianist Gil Sullivan at the Spaichingen Pianoforte manufacturer

He is fascinated by the character-laden sound of the pianos made in Spaichingen; Gil Sullivan, Australian master pianist, conductor and Mozart expert managed to captivate his audience – from the first to the last note.

He came, played and enthralled. Gil Sullivan is a sound-artist in the best sense of the word; like one doesn’t find every day. His playing is different; he gets you to sit up and listen, surprises you, makes you reflect, and finally convinces you.

With an intensely poetic and dynamic force, he puts the listener under his spell. Sullivan, who, in Australia, is part of the greats in his field, is a pleasant exception amongst the unfortunately rising number of younger male, and especially female, pianists who present themselves on their CDs in a neat and sexy fashion, but whose playing often provokes only a bored yawn. And Sullivan especially doesn’t submit to what popular music taste dictates – mainstream, as it is called nowadays – which says that Mozart has to sound such and such, or Chopin in exactly that way. No, Gil Sullivan does it his own way; he is a philosopher, he questions, he analyses and only then does he sit down at his instrument.

Mozart and Chopin – a dream becomes sound

Concert with the Australian pianist Gil Sullivan at the Spaichingen Pianoforte manufacturer

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, to whom Gil Sullivan is completely devoted, expectedly was a big focus of the night, in the concert hall in which only very few chairs remained empty. If anyone expected shallow, sweetly radiant playing, they certainly would have been disappointed; Sullivan’s Mozart is nothing like this. If one wanted to compare his playing with one of his renowned colleagues, one would think, if anybody, of Glenn Gould and Elly Ney – his interpretation is probably something like a "synthesis" of these two Mozart interpretations.

He sets accents in ways which one only gets to hear very rarely or never: His playing of Mozart is unique: With the sonatas in A major and B flat major the performance became an event. In addition, Gil Sullivan proved to be a magnificent presenter, with a profound musical knowledge; he personally explained all pieces – to the regret of some listeners - only in English. After Mozart, Sullivan continued with his compatriot Tristram Cary. During the past decades, Cary predominately became known as creator of film music. Sullivan presented his seven-movement Suite "Polly Fillers" – an extraordinarily original, partly funny and ironic composition - with virtuosity, and also with very typical elements.

For the ending, we went into the romantic era, with three Polonaises by Chopin (no.s 2, 4 and 6). Sometimes melancholic and dark, then again with powerful sounds and intoxicating virtuosity, the Australian artist ultimately put his listeners under his spell. And in the truest sense of the word it was demonstrated not only with a dramatic power of sound; what a great spectrum of dynamics and sound colours he unveiled!! As an encore, Gil Sullivan played Chopin’s well-known and so-called “rain drop prelude” for the enthused and thankful audience: a lyrical conclusion to an evening that one probably won’t ever forget – a great moment of piano music.

"...on Saturday night the city topped itself with Gil Sullivan’s piano concert a the Aiken Center for the Arts. It was as if we had been transported to Carnegie Hall! His interpretations of Chopin, Beethoven and Liszt dazzled the audience... a most remarkable piano concert."

"There were so many truly magical moments... even Brahms himself would have been impressed!"

“Not just another pianistic wizard, but a cultured and refined musician, whose rare and insightful vision into the very soul of the music cast a magical spell over the entire concert hall"

"The finest interpreter of Mozart in the world"

"It was hard to believe that just one pianist could make the piano sound like an entire orchestra"

"Sullivan is a marvellous Brahms pianist, with a wonderful touch and ability to exert a magical hold over the music."

[The] "programme revealed, in every phrase, Sullivan’s impassioned and deeply considered approach to music, in every way worthy of attention and devotion. Sullivan’s playing was engrossing, fully engaging the listener in his concentrated and complex interpretations that sought the very essence of this music’s characteristic expressive lyricism and structured intellectual rigour.

"The palpable integrity of Sullivan’s interpretative approach gave validity to the extremes of playing - headlong, virtuoso energy on the one hand, and, on the other, a refreshing, often eloquent elasticity of tempo in the music’s many lyrical stanzas.

"In the youthful sonic excess of [Brahms’] first sonata, Sullivan’s digital athleticism made a lot of noisy sparks fly with a spontaneity that is all too often lacking from live performance today."

"Sullivan’s interpretation of Beethoven’s 'Emperor' Concerto is one of overall directness and command... authority and flair ...with sensitive rubatos and a fine tonal range."

"Playing informed by brilliance of tone and accuracy. "Sullivan’s playing is invariably placed at the service of the music. "Playing redolent of consideration and musicality"

"Impeccable sense of style and a fine command of the tonal resources of the piano. Though his relaxed technique puts you at ease straight away, he is capable of phenomenally exciting pianism when the occasion demands"