A resurrection in concert to get us out of musical limbo

Musically, we are in a kind of limbo. The country’s largest musical institution, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, has yet to find a way to perform regularly for a live audience, despite performing for a paying audience at the Bord Gáis Energy Theater this Friday – a leaps and bounds, under the current circumstances. And, who knows, the definitive move of the RTÉ orchestra to the National Concert Hall, currently scheduled for Monday, November 1, could change all that, although currently classical music is quite rare in the venue’s schedule. . For the moment, it seems that it is the regional promoters who resume normal activity the fastest. The Westport Festival of Chamber Music took place earlier this month, Music for Galway announced its 40th season with concerts through January, the tiny Derravaragh Music Association, which performs at Tullynally Castle in County Westmeath, is back and a tough weekend brought full programs from the Sligo Festival of Baroque Music and the New Ross Piano Festival.

New Ross opened with a free and confident midday recital by Tiffany Qiu, who is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Her program of Bach, Chopin, Schubert, Debussy, Elliot Teo (another student in London) and Liszt followed the simplest and most direct line: a succession of pieces which she particularly likes. On this occasion, it was the clean lines of three movements of Bach’s Fifth French Suite that best suggested its potential.

The main opening concert began with an extravaganza, the arrangement of the Brahms Academic Festival Overture for four players on two pianos performed by Robert Keller, editor-in-chief of Brahms publisher, Simrock. It was a particular choice, given the composer’s reservations about Keller’s transcriptions, and it sounded exactly what it was – a version for home consumption, prepared at a time when music lovers did not have access to radio or recordings. Keller himself likened his arrangements to “drawings”. Brahms’ musical thought came in and awkwardly blurred in the performance of Katya Apekisheva, Christian Chamorel, Finghin Collins and Charles Owen.

Too sculpted

Apekisheva and Owen form an established duo, and performed together in works by Poulenc and Milhaud, but also in solos, Owen offering overly sculpted interpretations of Chopin (the Nocturne in F sharp, Op 15 n ° 2, and the Barcarolle) and Apekisheva a hell-for-leather, aggressive tale of Prokofiev’s sharp sarcasm.

The major new commission for the festival was Sally Beamish’s Sonnets for three pianists and two pianos. Six Hands is a pretty rare combination, but Beamish took the idea a step further in a theatrical piece triggered by Shakespeare’s Sonnets 19 and 129.

Sonnets is a playful piece that features players like the bard himself (Owen), the dark lady (Apekisheva), and the young man they both were interested in (Collins). It’s also a theatrical play that the first entry set the tone for – Collins strolling down the aisle of St Mary’s Church, more interested in flipping through the pages on his cell phone than anything in the world.

Beamish makes atmospheric use of some of Dowland’s songs and plays quite directly with the interpersonal tensions that she portrays. The theatrical realization, however, got a bit too pantomime, like the moment the three players jostled each other to position themselves on a single piano stool.

Israeli pianist Einav Yarden made a point of juxtaposing Haydn and CPE Bach, one a giant in so many musical fields, the other a famous son whose eccentricity continues to make him elusive to many listeners. Yarden’s approach to the two composers was very fragile, the melodic lines resembled fragments, the stretched logic of CPE Bach pushed past the breaking point. It was almost as if she had taken the spectacle aesthetic of post-war serial music and applied it in the late 18th century. However, she shone in Erdenklavier-Himmelklavier by Hungarian composer Péter Eötvös, a 21st-century tribute to fellow composer Luciano Berio, and even more so in Eötvös’ Dances of the Brush-Footed Butterfly. In Christian Chamorel’s solo recital, the most recent work, Elis by Heinz Holliger, a three-piece “night piece” ensemble from the early 1960s, was also best performed.

Pedal piano

The highlights of the festival came from Cédric Pescia and Philippe Cassard. They played Debussy’s arrangement for two pianos from Schumann’s Études Op 56 for pedal piano, a long-obsolete instrument that imitated the organ by providing the piano with a pedal board. These studies are now most often heard in organ recitals, where certain pieces take on a kind of fairground music. It was good to hear them in more sensitive and well-done stories that more faithfully reflect their true nature.

And it was Pescia and Cassard who brought the festival to a brilliant end, in the arrangement for two pianos by Liszt from Beethoven’s Choral Symphony. Brahms was particularly harsh in his take on Keller’s two-handed arrangements, saying, “I would have considered a two-handed arrangement interesting only if an extraordinary virtuoso had done it. Kind of like how Liszt made Beethoven’s symphonies. And Liszt’s four-handed arrangements work even harder than his two-handed arrangements to deliver the musical essence of these works.

Pescia and Cassard previously recorded the Beethoven Choral Symphony for Two Pianos, in Berlin last year, on a pair of Bechstein concert grand pianos. The clarity of the recording studio was not delivered on Steinways in New Ross, but the spirit of the music was equally well served in a reading where the form and grandeur of the music – and, of course, glorious and less glorious moments of pianistic clamor – made the audience leap to their feet.

About Elaine Morales

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