Robert Mitchell at Royal Festival Hall (Concert Review)

robert mitchell
It was somewhat of a privilege to be in attendance at acclaimed pianist and composer Robert Mitchell’s lunchtime concert held in the Southbank Centre last Friday; a privilege in the sense that an established musician of his calibre would be willing to play for an hour completely free of charge. Then again maybe it was for old-time’s sake; Mr Mitchell and the Royal Festival Hall after all, have an auspicious history together. Only last month he could be spotted playing beautifully with the fabulous Soul Noel collective and he wasted no time returning to Waterloo to showcase his solo capabilities.

Playing select tunes from his albums such as Equinox and The Greater Good as well as mixing things up with some improvisation, Robert meant business. Except when making a plea on behalf of the victims of the Haitian earthquake and drawing attention to the recent climate change-related crises across the globe, Mitchell kept to a minimum his softly-spoken interjections between songs, letting the music speak for itself instead.

The songs were as varied in mood and style as they were curiously titled. ‘Gulp’ started off grandiose and leaning towards the classical tradition before giving way to more fragmented, jazzy rhythms. ‘Zeitgeist’ was a far more pensive and sombre affair whilst the finale ‘Priceless’ was a frantic, almost irreverent piece sounding like ragtime gone renegade. One composition in particular, ‘Lucy Dreamt’ was especially spellbinding. I was left breathless as Mitchell’s fingers flew passionately over the keys and carried his audience on a journey across vast soundscapes and towards stories yet to be recounted.

The show wasn’t merely an impressive display of Mitchell’s talent but testament that there are those who are so skilled at what they do that nature itself demands that it be imparted; Robert Mitchell is one such person. If he was born with a baby grand fused to his fingers he could not be more qualified to share this amazing gift with the world.

–Tola Ositelu

Photo by Siobhan Bradshaw.