Superb finale as Cann hits high note

  • Talking about music: concert pianist Michelle Cann gives a lecture to Bermuda Institute students (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Talking about music: concert pianist Michelle Cann gives a lecture to Bermuda Institute students (Photograph by Akil Simmons)


Master musician and virtuoso pianist Michelle Cann introduced each piece with erudition and humour.

What followed in every case at the Earl Cameron Theatre last Wednesday, was a fascinating exploration of old and new music; an extended and profound essay on the way different composers employ ornamentation to put over emotional messages.

First, Chopin’s Variations Brillantes, a dazzling series of variations on what Michelle described as a rather inconsequential song in an obscure opera which had caught the composer’s ear.

The variations bring out the beauty of the simple melody, but then employ the whole range of the instrument — virtuosic passages with growing humour and simultaneous seriousness, speed and nocturne-like contemplation.

Piano Suite by Michael Leibowitz, written by the composer for Michelle, consists of three movements: a prelude, a toccata with a perpetual motion effect and a postlude, which ends with a series of loosely linked chords blended together using the sustain pedal and creating a moving finale.

Michelle finished the first half with the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, surely the ultimate in massive musical embellishment where all the implied harmonies of the original violin solo are brought to the fore in full-throated realisation. The overall impression is actually rather religious, like a cantata but with great tenderness of feeling. Two pieces by Debussy, Reflets dans léau and L’isle Joyeuse, started the second half of the concert.

Michelle reflected on the title of the second piece, the happy isle, as being reminiscent of Bermuda with its dance-like rhythms and joyful ending.

Then came Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 Op. 47, an extended musical narrative related to the legend of Ondine which started out at a joyous gallop and then slowly darkened into a sombre emotional climax.

Michelle ended with Schulz-Elver’s Concert Arabesque on Themes from Johann Strauss’s famous waltz On the Beautiful Blue Danube — another tour de force of ornamentation where each note of the original waltz is adorned with a kaleidoscopic cascade of grace notes. It’s as if the Danube had turned into sparkling champagne. This was a magnificent finale to a magical evening with the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.

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Published Jan 31, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 31, 2018 at 7:52 am)

Superb finale as Cann hits high note

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