This time it didn't rain! After a few years' gap we returned to Hebden Bridge for another sellout Piano Festival concert. I left it so late that we almost didn't get tickets for headliner Anna Tsybuleva! Understandably a sellout as Anna is the winner of the 2015 Leeds International Piano Competition.
A pretty impressive biography listed on the festival website - and the concert programme was equally impressive: Beethoven - Fantasy Op. 77; Schubert - 'Der Wanderer' Fantasy in C, D.760; Brahms - '7 Fantasies' Op.116; and Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12.
Described by Jonathan Biss as a little odd, the Fantasy Op. 77 is a multi-key, multi-meter, many-tempoed smorgasbord of writing, clearly showing Beethoven's genius as an improviser. Certainly parts of the Fantasy felt like a musical puppet show! Anna displayed the piece superbly (especially the quieter sections).
Suitably warmed, we headed for the intense dark/light of the 'Wanderer' fantasy. It's extremely difficult to play - but Anna made the technical side sound easy and kept a very good sense of structure and connectivity throughout Schubert's slightly demented investigation of darkness and light. Extremely well received by the audience (hopefully including the person who had fallen asleep and was lightly snoring - how anyone could have fallen asleep is beyond me!).
After the interval, through the Brahms Op. 116 Anna showed her prowess in meditative as well as virtuosic playing. I thought her performances of Nos 2, 4 and 6 of the 7 Fantasies were stunning. The event climaxed with Liszt's jaunty Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 - five intense and often funny folk themes therein.
After all that - and some very rousing applause - we were treated to two encores. More Liszt - Concert Étude No. 2 'La Leggierezza' and Saint-Saens' Etude en forme de Valse.
Certainly an intense evening! Throughout all the pieces, Anna maintained a very clear sound and demonstrated her skill in steel and spun-sugar playing. For all the steel, I particularly enjoyed the simpler moments of the performance.