He began in the 18th century with the ever-popular Haydn, which has to be executed with the greatest possible precision for it to work its brief magic on audiences. McCawley did not disappoint, playing its second movement with sparkling crispness, bringing out fully its pianistic witticisms.
He took us next to the 19th century, to hear one of Schubert’s most troubling sonatas, which he executed with enormous thoughtfulness, especially its beauteous slow movement. The work’s manic finale was also confidently navigated.
McCawley’s quick fingers were again evident in Schumann’s near contemporaneous and youthful set of charming variations, which he complemented with a thoughtfully restrained rendering of Gál’s two brief 20th century pieces.
Then, back to the 19th century for, first, Brahms and, to conclude, Chopin. The former’s set of character pieces, which are, by turn, melancholic, poetic, skittish, humorous and dramatic, was played by McCawley with impressive attention to detail. The latter’s very tricky improvisatory rhythms were performed with passionate conviction and mercurial virtuosity.
For an encore, McCawley flawlessly played Schumann’s dreamy Des Abends from the composer’s Fantasiestücke. McCawley smiled often as he played; his audience justifiably did too.