There seems to be a school of English (or UK based) pianists who have earned their reputation for assured thoughtfulness rather than heart-on-sleeve showiness. Stephen Hough and Paul Lewis are two who are regular performers on Australian shores. Piers Lane is another and moments of his performance with the WA Symphony Orchestra on Friday had an almost abstract clinical accuracy. But it was an intellectualism that traversed emotional extremes.

The 24 variations in Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini gave every opportunity to savour Lane’s exceptional tonal palette. A Debussian haze of spread chords and velvet arpeggios contrasted with glittering cadenzas and muscular octaves. Conductor Paul Daniel directed with precision and the teamwork between soloist and orchestra was impressive. At times the piano sound was embedded in the orchestra then moments later it would sparkle in the foreground or duet poetically with the woodwind. In the 18th variation Lane teased the ears by stretching the famed melody ahead and behind the left hand accompaniment with romantic yearning. The support from low brass and strings added rich power.

Lane took the audience to a deeper place with Rachmaninov’s Prelude in D, an encore which became the soul of the program. In Lane’s hands the simple melody intensified into a stern climax then melted in a tender conclusion where audience, orchestra – nursing instruments – and soloist lingered together in a moment of profound introspection.

Excerpts from Wagner’s Tannhauser and Dvorak’s Symphony No 7 completed the program. The lack of blend in the high strings and untidy attack – not helped by concertmaster Giulio Plotino over-anticipating entries – marred Daniel’s attempts at musical architecture. But the horn section was impressive in both and the weighty emphasis of low strings and brass produced some throbbing romantic moments.

This review copyright The West Australian newspaper 2013.