Past performance reviews...

Evening Recital: Marlborough Brilliant Young Pianists series, Marlborough, UK
By Christopher Rogers, Marlborough News Online,
November 22nd 2015, 7.30 pm

On a cold November night these two young musicians provided us with a feast of lovely music: Harry Nowakowski-Fox (piano) and Judith Choi-Castro (violin) - who perform and record as the Choi-Fox Duo.

The first half of this recital in the was devoted entirely to piano works played by Harry. He began with JS Bach’s Partita No 2 in C Minor, very well known to the St Peter's Church audience. The work begins with an opening Sinfonia, which has three very different sections.  We were treated to a very formal almost solemn grave section, which gives way to a lovely gentle andante before finishing with a two-part fugue in which Harry showed a thorough mastery of Bach’s familiar counterpart.  

Then follow a series of dance movements, all very varied in speed and in mood.  However it is in the last two movements, the rondeaux and finally the capriccio, where all the excitement lies.  Technically demanding, Harry sailed through these movements at a cracking tempo, the notes just pouring from his finger tips.

The Chopin Barcarolle in F Sharp Major which followed is a very different piece. A barcarolle is based on the rhythm and mood of the ‘barcarola’, a song sung by Venetian gondoliers, and a source of inspiration to many nineteenth century composers.  This one is lovely.

Harry articulated the rippling arpeggios which were reminiscent of sunlight on the waters of the Grand Canal, and poured much expression into the main theme, which is unmistakably Italian in its form.

The great Piano Sonata no 21 in C major, the ‘Waldstein’, was a complete contrast. Here is one of Beethoven’s finest piano works. Two thunderous outer movements are separated by a short and reflective adagio. Harry played with huge confidence, mastering the bravado that this work demands, but, at the same time, highlighting the moments of quiet contemplation found therein.

The second half saw Harry back at the piano to accompany Judith in two well-established works for piano and violin duo. The first of these was Beethoven’s wonderful Violin Sonata in F Major which, thanks to its sunny and joyous character has been known as the ‘Spring’ sonata.  

Its ‘uncomplicated’ light-heartedness makes a good contrast with the powerful Waldstein which had preceded it.  You can’t help but smile from the first moment of this work. Judith gave us a very personal rendering, highlighting the sometimes very intimate ‘conversation’ between the violin and the piano. This was joy both to watch and to hear.

The concert finished with a violin sonata in F Major written in 1838 by a young and buoyant Mendelssohn.  It is more complex than the Beethoven, and requires more attention from both the performer and the listener.  There are serene moments where the elegant melodies are reminiscent of the Songs Without Words. These were played with great eloquence. However, it is the ‘dash for the finish’, the assai vivace, with its long and breathless passages of joyous fast notes passed from one instrument to the other that was memorable.

This concert was recognised by many as one of the very best in these recent series of recitals by young musicians.

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" :  The Great Hall of the Oldham Hulme Grammar Schools
By Graham Marshall
July 6th 2014 7.30pm

Former pupil of Manchester’s Chetham’s School of Music and graduate of London’s Royal College of Music, 27-year old pianist Harry Nowakowski-Fox brings an already experienced mind to his concert performances at home and abroad. In the splendid setting of the Great Hall of Oldham’s Hulme Grammar Schools on Saturday, July 6th, he gave an imperious performance of Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto (commonly known as ‘the Emperor’), securely accompanied by the members of the Oldham Symphony Orchestra led by Andrew Marshall and conducted by Richard Waldock.  

This may no longer be thought of as one ofthe most technically demanding of keyboard concertos, but it remains one of the most challenging artistically. The pianist must establish in the first few bars an authority over the orchestra which will remain in place throughout.  Not only in the player’s exposed bravura passages but also in those quieter, more reflective moments, when it is more a question of caressing the notes than proclaiming them with any forcefulness, the need is to show who’s boss - discretely, of course. 

Harry’s understanding of this was clear, as was his technical accomplishment across the range of pianistic demands made upon him by a composer whose every note has something to contribute that has to be made known. The orchestra, too, responded immediately to the soloist’s demands that this should not be an unequal contest, but that they should understand the role of accompanist in a musical journey to be enjoyed by all concerned.  The audience was carried away and along with great pleasure.  A memorable occasion of music-making, made all the more so by Harry’s encore playing of Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 27.

Evening Recital: Holy Trinity Church, Hereford
By Spencer Allman, Hereford Times
September 26th 2015, 7.00 pm

" ......The first half of the concert featured Harry Nowakowski-Fox playing solo. His pacey account of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 (‘Waldstein’) was breathtaking, the work’s formidable difficulties presenting few challenges.

This was a virtually slip-free performance, with keen attention paid to the dynamic contrasts so crucial to any interpretation of this composer’s piano sonatas. Beethoven rarely makes life easy, but Nowakowski-Fox’s handling of the piece’s rapid reiterations at soft dynamic levels was astonishing.

Earlier on too, his technique and verve had been communicated in his execution of Bach’s second Partita for keyboard, the opening work of the concert. The clarity of tone, his ability to bring out key lines amid the complexity of the contrapuntal writing, and the sheer emotional weight of it all made this probably the highlight of the evening....... "