A beautiful voice is not enough to animate a recital, and animation was what the New Zealand baritone Julien Van Mellaerts and British pianist Gamal Khamis brought to their Schumann, Britten, Tchaikovsky and Debussy, alert to the specifics of style, language and character in each miniature narrative.
Anna Picard, The Times
To finish the evening, we heard from the winners, Julien Van Mellaerts and Gamal Khamis. They were wonderful from the beginning. As a pair, their sound was clear and bright and their music making was very detailed… Khamis was…precise, while remaining warm and playing with a wide range of colours. The duo shone throughout their programme, but there were several things that were especially remarkable. Schumann’s “Mondnacht” was wonderful: it was very clear and detailed in its execution, yet somehow completely tender and mysterious. Their performance of Britten’s “Proverb IV” and “The Tyger” from Songs and Proverbs of William Blake was also fantastic. These amazing songs are a real challenge to performers because of their musical complexity. Their presentation was thrilling: full of excitement paired with foreboding. They used a huge range of colour and shaping to create a world of sound. Their programme finished with an unusual and wonderful song cycle by Debussy. His Trois ballades de François Villon are rarely performed…Khamis really shone here – his playing was incredibly colourful, bringing together all the disparate elements of the piano writing. It was easy to see why this pair were ultimately selected as the winners. They presented an incredible programme of music with a sophisticated, precise fearlessness that filled Wigmore Hall.
Vivian Darkbloom, Schmopera
Outstanding young pianist
Gamal Khamis rolled majestically on to the scene with the rich sonorities of “Los requiebros” (“The compliments”)…Nocturnal dissolves both here and in “Colloquio en la reja” (“Conversation at the window”), with its last 30 seconds encapsulating all the magic of Spanish night and black silks which even Debussy couldn’t surpass, were exquisitely controlled…his sheer poetry re-emerged in the wistful beauty of the best-known number, “Complaints or the maiden and the nightingale”, meltingly rounded off by Granados’s nocturnal birdsong.
David Nice, The Arts Desk
Khamis brought out persuasively the languid charm of ‘Los requiebros’ and the whip-like virtuosity of the ‘Fandango’.
Michael Church, The Independent
…That Khamis has formidable keyboard skills was evident from the ease with which he dispatched the multilayered textures of Thomas Adès’s Powder Her Face paraphrases, as well as Saxton’s Hortus Musicae — a glitteringly evocative evocation of various gardens, real and metaphorical…
Richard Morrison, The Times
Some very fine performances…Khamis… gave a fluid and nicely turned account of the Holloway [Ballade op.90], luxuriating in its Faure-esque ambiguities… An impressive technical display…
Guy Dammann, The Guardian
So a mixed bag, musically. As were the three pieces played by pianist Gamal Khamis, but the experience of hearing them was much more vivid because the performances were so remarkable. Khamis’s razor-sharp mental and physical control was evident in Saxton’s gently rhapsodic Hortus Musicae, but it really shone out in Thomas Adès’s brilliant concert paraphrase of his youthful opera Powder her Face. One could relish the music’s grotesquely over-the-top sleaze, because the performance was so clean. In Robin Holloway’s Ballade the obsessive galloping rhythms were beautifully controlled, and the way the music constantly darted in and out of Schumann’s romantic world was caught with mesmerising exactitude.
Ivan Hewitt, The Telegraph
Pianist Gamal Khamis’s performance was the highlight of the opening concert in this year’s series…
The highlight of the evening was pianist Gamal Khamis, whose sensitivity and imagination shone out of his three performances. He captured the blend of lyricism and caprice that characterises Robin Holloway’s Ballade, Op 90 No 1, a piece that starts purposefully, then gradually loses momentum. But Saxton’s meditative Hortus Musicae provided a stronger platform for this pianist’s talent. It describes a metaphysical, multi-faceted garden, as distinctive for its silences as it is for its sounds. Khamis fully understood that, while making the most of every colour, play of light and scent. Most memorable of all was the Concert Paraphrase on Thomas Adès’s 1995 opera Powder Her Face. We heard the final two movements, more than enough to taste the brilliance of Adès’s music, and the tawdry world it so wryly conjures up. Here it sounded almost like a sinister clown dance — all manic grins and demented, staring eyes. And still it raised a nervous chuckle.
Hannah Nepil, The Financial Times
Closing each half of this recital, pianist Gamal Khamis evinced a dazzling technique that was always at the service of interpretative insight. Qualities such as were pointedly held in check in the Ballade (2001) with which Robin Holloway resourcefully pays tribute to mid-nineteenth-century pianism – its purposeful outer sections enclosing a poetic yet hardly passive episode which between them outline the range of Brahms’s piano writing. With its recourse to an altogether more flamboyant pianistic ethos, Thomas Adès’s Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face (2009) makes wholly different demands, yet Khamis was mindful to bring out the panache along with the pathos of its third and fourth movements (hopefully he will tackle the first two if he has not already done so). Further contrast was provided by Saxton’s Hortus Musicae (2013), its five movements alluding to the concept of an allegorical or even metaphysical garden which takes in whimsical as well as animated elements in the course of an evocative sequence, to whose methodical yet limpid pianism Khamis did ample justice.
Richard Whitehouse, Classical Source
As a conclusion, may I return to PLG on Monday evening and pianist Gamal Khamis. A colleague reviewed the recital and I was there, bowled over by Khamis’s playing – from memory – of complex pieces by Robert Saxton, Robin Holloway and Thomas Adès, with a focus and discernment that suggest Khamis has the World literally at his fingertips. Park Lane Group struck gold with him.
Colin Anderson, Classical Source
The pianist Gamal Khamis, who gave his Wigmore Hall recital at the age of 10, diverted for a few years to take a maths degree at Imperial College and is now a PLG young artist, was dazzling in Holloway’s jubilant romantic miniature, Ballade, Op 90 No 1 (2000). He also played part of Adès’s Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face and Saxton’s glistening, subtle Hortus Musicae (2013), inspired by the notion of a metaphysical garden.
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
Pianist Gamal Khamis invested the baroque inflections of True Life Stories [by Mark-Anthony Turnage] with heavy grandeur, finally relaxing into the sad loveliness of Tune for Toru.
Anna Picard, The Times