18. 10. 2023

Jersey Evening Post (Rod McLoughlin)

A musical highlight of the year

Rod McLoughlin was left wanting more after Anika Vavic’s sparkling piano recital

Jersey Evening Post, - 18/10/2023 - Page 19
Jersey Evening Post, - 18/10/2023 - Page 19

HOW unexpected that one of the year's musical highlights should take place on a dreich autumn evening at St Mark's Church but occasionally life has a pleasant surprise in store and Anika Vavic's short piano recital was one of them.

It shouldn't have been a surprise, of course. On paper, Ms Vavic is an impressive performer, having appeared with some of world's leading conductors, including Vladimir Jurowski, who partnered her at the BBC Proms. Nevertheless, her sparkling programme, ranging from the Baroque to the early 20th century, exceeded any expectations you might have had for an October Friday in St Helier.

The D major Haydn Sonata Hob.XVI: 37 with which she began set the mood, the crystalline clarity of her passagework overcoming an acoustic whose resonance better suits string players. Her performance was both extrovert and expressive, boldly spread chords in the opening allegro already providing an insight into her adventurous spirit.

That spirit emerged in a quite different way in her treatment of two Bach arrangements - Siloti's version of the celebrated E minor Prelude, and Sheep may safely graze adapted by Egon Petri - with their singing legato lines combined with some distinctly contemporary harmonies. In particular, the Siloti - once the calling card of the great Emil Gilels - had a wonderful sense of contour, dynamics skilfully drawing out the arc of the shifting harmonies.

You would expect an artist with Ms Vavic's CV to have an impressively secure technique - especially evident in the brilliant contrapuntal clarity of Bach's Italian Concerto - but there were two other rarer things which distinguished this performance, qualities that it is even lesscommon to find together, and so finely balanced.

The first was an ability to find new interest in individual phrases, whether by emphasising individual notes within chords or drawing distinct colours from the keyboard. There was, for instance, a wonderful moment towards the end of the slow movement of the Italian Concerto where the music suddenly assumed a quite different aspect that made you think the piano might be equipped with a harpsichord stop. It was as though, looking out over a sunlit landscape, a cloud had passed overhead to change the intensity of the scene before you.

That ability to draw out detail was allied to the second quality distinguishing this performance - an unerring sense of musical line. However, individually interesting those details were, they never detracted from the musical argument. That was certainly evident in the Haydn where although you were reminded of the brilliant keyboard writing of Scarlatti and C.P.E. Bach, for example, you also looked forward to a period of more formal classical restraint. And in Scriabin's late piece Vers la flamme, there was the same sense of hearing musical ideas grow before you.

A breathtaking performance of Chopin's Third Ballade brought the advertised programme to a conclusion though Ms Vavic returned to the platform for three encores: Bach's borrowing of Vivaldi's D minor Sicilienne, the Scherzo from Schubert's finalB flat Piano Sonata D960 and the C major Sonata K159 by Scarlatti. Even in these encores there was plenty to think about, such as her distinctly modernistic way with the accentuated bass notes in the trio section of the Schubert, to say nothing of the dazzling clarity of the Scarlatti.

Over a drink in the foyer afterwards, there was only one thing to regret - the absence of a second half that would have sustained the magic of this Moments Musicaux concert for longer.

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