Guernsey Press, February 22nd February 2023
Solo recital at Fanny Davis International Piano Series, February 15th 2023
Until I heard Leon McCawley play, I’d never have considered so dry a virtue as ‘respect’ to feature in my reasons for my being so utterly captivated by a musician’s performance. But mulling it over with fellow audience members, it became clear that this was the overriding quality that linked his extraordinarily varied but always enthralling approach to such diverse composers as Haydn and Brahms. His credentials and interpretation together demonstrate a unique talent. But respect? I believe it is in the way he honours the deepest truths in every composer he undertakes to play and manages to communicate that to an audience so that they, in an instant, can understand and share his reverence. This is a pianist who finds the humanity in the music, and embodies it.
He was greeted with deafening applause and a standing ovation reflecting, I believe, his intuitive connection with aficionados and first-timers alike. Having led us into fierce and wonderful terrain, the master guided us safely back home. We were drained; he looked ready to do it all over again. It felt unrepeatable. It was certainly unforgettable.
_ _ _
CharlesHutchPress, October 24th 2022
Solo recital at Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York, October 12th 2022
Athletes and performers alike talk about being “in the zone”. Leon McCawley found it here. He played the Schubert like a man possessed, not running amok, quite the opposite. The audience sensed it early on and kept incredibly quiet, even between movements. No-one wanted to break the extraordinary spell he generated.
Although Schubert’s multiple key-changes can easily disrupt the flow, they were not allowed to here, seeming perfectly and smoothly logical. This slackened not a whit in the Andante, which was deeply thoughtful and ended with the same serenity we had heard earlier.
The scherzo was fiery but light, with crisp inner voices. Gravity returned in the trio but evaporated with the scherzo’s return and peaceful conclusion. The finale was inevitably more extrovert, and even briefly stormy, but the scale was always intimate, as if secrets were being shared rather than trumpeted around the hall.
By now McCawley had the audience in the palm of his hand and could have got away with almost anything. But he kept faith with our intelligence and resisted the temptation to over-explain. It was possible to believe that this was exactly how Schubert intended it to be. Certainly it was a performance never to be forgotten
Solo Recital for Singapore International Piano Festival at Victoria Concert Hall, June 12th 2022
An overwhelming sense of mortality possessed the haunting slow movement. This, balanced by the apparent gaiety of the last two movements, gave this magnificently judged performance a human perspective that has become all too rare.