Christian Zacharias performing music by Bach, Beethoven and Schubert at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight gave the audience an opportunity to enjoy the musical gifts of a world class concert pianist (and conductor) in a venue perfectly suited for piano recitals.
The Queen’s Hall is a special venue, an old church converted into a music venue 40 years ago and, seating around 900 people, it is still of a size to be an intimate space for both performers and audience alike. The Queen’s Hall is also one of the best natural acoustic spaces that you will find at any music venue; a perfect combination then of musician, piano and performance space for this recital.
Music for the evening played by Christian Zacharias was over two performances with an interval as below
JS Bach: Partita No 3 in A minor, BWV 827
Beethoven: 12 Variations on the Russian Dance from ‘Das Waldmädchen’, WoO 71
Beethoven: Sonata in F minor, Op 2 No 1
Schubert: Sonata in A minor, D845
Christian Zacharias has obvious special gifts as a musician, and a wonderful warmth of touch and tone to everything that he plays, but there is something else happening here. Bach, Beethoven and Schubert are 3 composers that Christian Zacharias has performed throughout his life, and he has an obvious pleasure not only performing their music on stage, but sharing that joy of the music with his audience. I have had the pleasure of reviewing some wonderful musicians over the years, but some, although of enormous musical ability, seem to perform their music more for their own pleasure than their audience, almost as if in a self-enclosed bubble. Christian Zacharias is different, there is a connection with his audience that is immediate and never lost throughout the performance as he is sharing the music with us, not just performing it for us.
This carefully chosen programme is full of light and contrast as the works are chosen from different times in the composers’ careers. Schubert of course, had a very short life (1797 – 1828) and died far too young and, despite leaving a remarkable body of work behind him, you cannot help but wonder what was still to come from such a gifted composer, and the performance of this work in A minor makes an interesting comparison with Bach’s use of the same key.
Beethoven was the pleasant surprise for me in this performance as this work is from the young composer, and far lighter and playful than I often think of as being his work.
The music performed here comes from a golden age of music, a time when the modern intrusions of daily life were an unknown to the composers and the world and somehow all the music tonight creates for me a sense of a far gentler world moving at a far more polite and slower pace of life. This is music that was created to be performed live to an audience with an attention span of more than two or 3 minutes radio airplay.
This performance was In support of the East Neuk Festival Endowment Fund, and Christian Zacharias is a very welcome and regular performer at this festival. More information about this festival and their 2019 programme is available from their website at
Review by Tom King