Pianist, Joseph Houston, Kendal Town Hall

He walked onto the stage - young, slim, immaculately turned out (“and with a tie!” murmured our neighbour). With a quiet, confident bearing he spoke to his audience with calm enthusiasm and humour about his profession and what we were about to hear. Joseph Houston was a recent guest of the Kendal Midday Concert Club. He is a pianist, or more accurately, a pianist extraordinaire who, during the course of his recital, gave the club’s devotees a most memorable experience.

His thoughtfully-devised programme had a pleasing variety. Four Debussy Préludes - each hugely representative of the degree to which their composer influenced the late 19th Century development of piano music - were presented with an authority that emphasised his overall understanding of the nature of Debussy’s music; flowing imaginative phrase structures, sudden dynamic changes illuminated with an exciting pungency, subtle use of the pedals and a general technical command of his instrument.

A leap back in time to the 18th Century was required for three Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. A completely different idiom, clearly, and it was all effortlessly achieved via crisp, neat finger work, lightly-precise ornamentation, dynamic contrasts that were never too extreme and a natural feeling to the phrasing.

Nineteenth Century Romantic passion and extravagant virtuosity returned with a vengeance as Chopin’s Ballade No 4 was played with a full-blooded freedom that alternated with delicate tracery work, precisely-timed silences and pauses - all intrinsic in any idiomatic performance.

Rossini - composer of piano music? Yes, indeed, super abundantly, at the end of his career. Joseph demonstrated just what we have missed as he romped through three pieces from the Péchés de viellesse. Further evidence was ever-present of his remarkable technical facility and ability to vividly project the varying characteristics of the pieces.

Warm applause demanded an encore: “I have nothing new,” he apologised, “it must be either Debussy or Rossini - which do you want?” “Debussy!” we chorused. And so it was; one of the Préludes played earlier gave us a suitably ‘grande finale’.