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Pianists perform ‘brilliantly’ at opening of free festival

Alex Tuchman, musical director of the Bermuda Piano Festival (File photograph)

Five virtuosic pianists brilliantly performed the music of four brilliant composers at the opening of the Bermuda Piano Festival on Tuesday.

First, Eteri Anjaparidze gave us Haydn’s three-movement Sonata in D Major, Hob. XIV: 37. After a clear, joyful and technically dazzling allegro, she took us into a different realm altogether in the largo. This seemed to have come from an earlier era because of its sombre, antique, renaissance, pavane-like structures. The finale showed Haydn at his most playful. Building on his signature eight bar question and answer technique, the music took on a skittish, almost flirtatious mood [which was] perfectly executed.

Santiago Lomelin next performed two of Schubert’s impromptus: D. 899 numbers 2 and 3. These contrasted in mood with the Haydn pieces as well as with each other. Number 2 was a dizzying, oddly amusing tumble of lightning-fast triplets which morphed into an expansive and almost hyperbolic waltz. While humour animated impromptu number 2, number 3 was a deadly serious affair; a tragic and inexpressible longing bodied forth in a series of hymnlike songs without words. Lomelin performed with immense empathy and, (to take an expression from another era), real soul.

We were next placed in the hands of Stephen Cook for three pieces from Debussy’s 1907 Images Book 2. The first, entitled Bells Through the Leaves, led us to expect something maybe autumnal. Instead Cook used sustained, percussive, unconventional Far-Eastern harmonies, which at the same time echoed sounds of alpine meadows. He showed how Debussy’s uncanny ability to summon visual imagery refused to be pinned down to anything specific. The second image, And the Moon Descends On the Temple That Was, was again redolent of the Far East, yet to me it strongly evoked Caspar Friedrich’s 1809 painting The Abbey in the Oakwood. In Golden Fish, the third image of the series, Cook again introduced the unexpected. The fish were shown in bold, strident, even violent musical phrases, full of turbulent activity and then suddenly disappearing.

Russell Hirshfield next performed four preludes and two impromptus by Scriabin. Hirshfield’s technique was contemplative, unobtrusive, almost understated, but enabled us to experience the composer’s unique music clearly without ornamentation. Prelude No 1 could have been written by Chopin but just when a waltz is expected, the music moves away into a contemplative series of monologues. No 2 is a tantalising series of musical experiments which never become realised. Both impromptus show the composer at his most protean; thoughts nearly become solid musical themes but then veer away from any resolution. The experience resembles a musical stream of consciousness.

Musical director Alex Tuchman completed the evening with a performance of Scriabin’s Sonata No 5, Op 53, which he performed with masterly technique, giving voice to the composer’s untrammelled emotive power. In this extraordinary piece Tuchman’s mastery of the instrument unleashed rage, frenzy, calm. mysticism, resignation and spiritual peace, all ending with a sonic boom.

The Bermuda Piano Festival continues tonight and tomorrow night at 7.30pm at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. Admission is free

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Published June 25, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated June 25, 2022 at 7:54 am)

Pianists perform ‘brilliantly’ at opening of free festival

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