THE long tradition of three piano recitals at the heart of the annual Farley Music Festival continued this year with some outstandingly beautiful concerts.

The first was given by Nicholas Walker, internationally renowned musician, head of keyboard skills at the Royal Academy, very special friend of Farley and Salisbury resident. Through him a constant stream of wonderfully talented students have performed at Farley every summer, and just occasionally he has been persuaded to play himself.

His programme included works by Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and Balakirev (the remarkable Russian who Nicholas has championed passionately during his career). Every piece was played with the utmost musical insight and exceptional technique. Nicholas also provided highly interesting programme notes, especially revealing in the case of Liszt’s great B minor sonata.

His performance of this towering work was an unforgettable experience, with the huge contrasts and juxtapositions of good and evil magnificently displayed. The sharp fortissimo chords illustrating Satan’s power were literally frightening, and the majesty of the Christian grandioso theme filled Farley’ historic Wren-style church as if from an organ. This was a truly great performance.

Alexandra Vaduva, a final year Masters student at the Royal Academy, gave the second piano concert. She has a prestigious career developing as a recitalist and has won many prizes in notable competitions. Her programme at Farley included music by Bartok, Schoenberg, Janá?ek, Schubert and Stravinsky. It was wonderful to hear how some relatively rarely heard music made perfect sense in her hands, especially the nostalgic and at times anguished suite of pieces entitled On an Overgrown Path by Janá?ek. Her concert ended with the incredibly virtuosic arrangement of Petrushka made by Stravinsky for Rubinstein (who initially refused to play it because of its extreme technical demands). There were no problems for Alexandra, who produced an amazing and exciting performance to the delight of the audience at Farley.

The final piano recital in this year’s festival was given by the Armenian pianist Anahit Chaushyan, who played Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Brahms’s Op.118 piano pieces and six dances by the Armenian composer Komitas. In the Schumann and the Brahms she drew out all the poetry of these elusive pieces, presenting a narrative that completely held the audience’s attention; the Komitas was no less fascinating with its Byzantine flavour and was played with a remarkable range of colour. Those present were fortunate to hear playing of the greatest warmth and artistry.

Richard Godfrey