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Tamara Stefanovich performs Messiaen and Bach on the London Piano Competition – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United Kingdom London Piano Competition – Bach, Rameau, and Messiaen: Tamara Stefanovich (piano). Corridor One, Kings Place, London, 6.10.2022. (MB)

Tamara Stefanovich © Marco Borggreve

Bach – Aria variata alla maniera italiana, BWV 989
Messiaen – Préludes: ‘Chant d’extase dans un paysage triste’
Bach – Three-part Innovations: Sinfonia No.9 in F minor, BWV 795
Rameau – Pièces de clavecin: ‘L’entretien des muses’
Messiaen – Catalogue d’oiseaux: ‘Le courlis cendré’; Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus: ‘Regard des anges’, ‘Première communion de la Vierge’
Rameau – Pièces de clavecin: ‘Les cyclopes’; Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin: ‘La poule’
Messiaen – Catalogue d’oiseaux: ‘L’alouette calandrelle’
Bach – Three-part Innovations: ‘Sinfonia No.15 in B minor, BWV 801
Messiaen – Vingt regards: ‘La parole toute puissante’, ‘Noël’; Cantéyodjayâ

I had discovered myself reflecting not too long ago how unhappy it was that Olivier Messiaen’s music had considerably gone out of style. It doesn’t go unheard, however like that of many composers, the variety of works usually carried out isn’t so nice. There are advocates, after all, although maybe fewer than could be ideally suited. The lack of Pierre Boulez continues to hit the reason for twentieth-century music arduous and that is absolutely a living proof. Typically an anniversary gives a possibility; alas, nothing important is approaching. As Messiaen, then, finds himself within the doldrums, alongside figures equivalent to Hindemith (how for much longer?!) and Tippett, it was refreshing certainly to search out his music so thoughtfully programmed and brilliantly carried out as right here by Tamara Stefanovich within the opening programme of this 12 months’s London Piano Competition.

Bach, although not at his most acquainted, started the recital: the Aria variata. Stefanovich’s rich-toned, deeply thought of studying confirmed, ought to there have been any doubters, that efficiency with nice perception into up to date (to Bach) language and follow is completely attainable on the piano. I fancied I heard her just a little, or greater than just a little, of her acknowledged admiration for Nikolaus Harnoncourt right here. ‘French’ rhythms had been strongly to the fore, already pointing the best way not solely to Rameau however, maybe extra strongly nonetheless, to Messiaen. With command of Bach’s rhetoric, Stefanovich employed variation type and the modifications of perspective it wrought to style a robust cumulative assertion. Freedom and type had been unmistakably two sides of the identical coin.

Youthful Bach (c.1709) gave solution to nonetheless younger Messiaen. The ‘Chant d’extase dans un paysage triste’ from his early Préludes captured the spirit of its poetic title with simply the correct kind of post-Debussyan voice. Ecstasy, as in a lot of what was to come back, supplied liberation in its ordered delirium; or was that an beautiful cage? Maybe there was no want to decide on. Nor was there, returning to Bach, within the darkly chromatic craving of the F minor Sinfonia, a ‘black pearl’ of its personal. Rameau supplied a staging put up in between, although with its personal character. The distinction of his conception of concord — recall Emanuel Bach’s self-portrayal as ‘anti-Rameau’ — and certainly of ornamentation appeared in some methods nearer to Messiaen, although these aren’t maybe composers we most readily contemplate bedfellows. ‘L’entretien des muses’ was equally well-shaped, dynamic contrasts very a lot a part of that shaping. Two Messiaen items closed the primary half: from Catalogue d’oiseaux: ‘Le courlis cendré’, and from Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus: ‘Regard des anges’. Playful violence throughout the keyboard, not not like a swerving cat, took us from deep chords and excessive birdsong to an extra sweep of carolling colors and contrasts.

The second half opened with one other ‘regard’, ‘Première communion de la Vierge’, which introduced additional heavenly ecstasy. Rock-solid rhythm enabled unbelievable melodic arabesques to work their magic above; so too did concord, Rameau’s ghost included. Two extra of Rameau’s keyboard items, ‘Les cyclopes’ and ‘La poule’ adopted, the previous unfolding with grace and never solely dissimilar fantasy, the previous a research in pictorial caprice and obstinacy suggestive of one other harpsichordist up to date, Domenico Scarlatti. Certainly, nice Scarlatti pianists got here to my thoughts within the show and relish we heard for rating and instrument alike. Repeated notes supplied an odd but convincing rainbow bridge between this and the following Messiaen piece, the second Bach Sinfonia in context effecting an virtually Apollonian restoration of order.

Virtually mocking in its apocalyptic imaginative and prescient, reducing us mere mortals all the way down to dimension, ‘La parole toute puissante’ greater than lived as much as its identify. This closing Messiaen sequence, culminating within the extraordinary rhythms — and manifold implications — of Cantéyodjayâ, unleashed a torrential power of pianistic but above all musical bravura. Bizarre, great, above all unanswerable, this was music that performed by — and was performed with — its personal guidelines, a loopy world of mysteries in itself that confirmed past doubt how a lot richer our personal world is with the music of Messiaen.

Mark Berry



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