07 February 2009

Lunchtime recital

I went to a recital at Renfield St Stephen’s Parish Church this lunchtime given by the Japanese pianist Maki Yoneta. We were treated to a wide range of piano music from Scarlatti to Ginastera.

I was a bit disappointed by the three Scarlatti sonatas that began the concert. It wasn’t just that they were being played on a piano rather than a harpsichord. Somehow I felt Maki just wasn’t comfortable with Scarlatti. By contrast the Mozart piece that followed, Twelve Variations on ‘Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman’ (aka ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’) was great fun – what a pity so many of the audience seemed to take it so seriously; it is a wonderful little musical joke. When she moved on to Liszt, I felt she was moving on to home territory. Her performance of a tarantella from Années de Pèlerinage was a tour de force.

For a change of pace she offered us three songs arranged for piano by Gershwin. These pieces seemed too measured, too dependent on the score. Perhaps if she had thrown away the score, shut her eyes and imagined herself in a smoke-filled Prohibition era bar instead of a Glasgow church, they would have been more successful.

The finale of the recital was Ginastera’s 1st Piano Sonata (again played from the score). This was a real eye opener for me: I knew of Ginastera as Piazolla’s teacher, but I don’t think I’ve ever listened to any of his music before. The sonata opens with a driving Allegro marcato. This gives way to a Presto misterioso, which is really quite creepy. The third movement, an Adagio molto appassionato, paints a picture of a bleak, wintry landscape. And the sonata concludes with a brilliant Ruvido ed ostinato. Interestingly at some point in the sonata Maki stopped looking at the score and her playing ramped up from very good to spine-tingling. A superb end to a very satisfying recital (and her encore, a Chopin Etude, was the icing on the cake).

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