Looking forward to the return of Sanchez-Werner and Katz
Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner and Eleni Katz are co-winners of the 2022 Concert Artists Guild competition, a gruelling affair in which three musical performances are chosen winners out of 350 entrants.
They are therefore new professional musicians on their first trip abroad and I believe it’s the first time Bermuda has seen or heard musicians at such an early stage in their international concert career.
What is more, both are unassuming, naturally charming young people who were really enjoying their stay here. They filled us in with some details about themselves. Eleni is a multi-instrumentalist as well as a singer but believes that her chosen instrument, the bassoon, with its huge range, is the most human sounding of all orchestral instruments, most closely resembling the tenor voice.
Pianist Llewellyn feels that his Welsh/Mexican/German ancestry has played a part in his love of European and Mexican music. The combination of bassoon and piano is another first for Bermuda. Llewellyn’s technical and emotional mastery of the piano in all its moods was absolute. Eleni’s bassoon sounded uncannily human in its singing tonality, which could change instantly to an impossibly deep didgeridoo-sounding bass.
The overall title of the programme was Dance Fever, which included a richly textured mix of classical as well as recent compositions, but only a minority of stated dance tunes. This did not matter. All performances were new to me, and possibly to the festival audience as well.
Ravel’s Piece en Forme de Habanera was a mixture of tango beat and Middle Eastern melody reminiscent of Bolero and contrasted strongly with the more straightforward melodic structures of Manuel Ponce’s Mexican traditional, Estrellita and Intermezzo. Debussy’s Estampes used Eastern and Moorish/Arab sounds in Pagoda and Evening in Granada and ended with a sound painting of lashing rain during a thunderstorm (Jardins Sous la Pluie), which bought Lewellyn’s effortless, virtuosic playing into sharp focus.
Eleni’s romantic sounding bassoon was the perfect foil for the piano in Weber’s Andante and Hungarian Rondo. Country versus town living – for Eleni lives in Florida and Llewellyn in New York – was the subject of modern composer Cindi Hsu’s Spring Fever, which closed the first half.
Llewellyn opened the second half with a first for our festival, with his own piano composition, New Work. Its huge energy and use of mercurial bagatelle-like structures is a sign that he is on track to become a major composer for the piano.
The duo ended with three dances from Stravinsky’s The Firebird, followed by a selection from Bernstein’s theatre music of which Somewhere There Is A Place For Us made for a poignant and heartfelt envoi to a wonderful concert.
We all hope to welcome Llewellyn and Eleni again as their careers unfold.
Llewellyn Sanchez-Warner and Eleni Katz performed at Earl Cameron Theatre last week as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts, which continues on May 5 with Sara Niemietz. For tickets, visit bermudafestival.org/
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