Review / Sublime afternoon of songs and piano works

Music / “Melodies From the Belle Époque in Paris”. Laetitia Grimaldi, soprano, and Ammiel Bushakevitz, piano. At Wesley Music Centre, May 13. Reviewed by LEN POWER

Soprano Laetitia Grimaldi and pianist Ammiel Bushakevitz. Photo by PETER HISLOP

THE Belle Époque (or “Beautiful Era”) was a period of about 40 years ending in World War I in which, especially in Paris, the arts flourished and many masterpieces of literature, music, theatre and visual art were created.

Soprano Laetitia Grimaldi and pianist Ammiel Bushakevitz presented a sublime afternoon of songs and piano works by composers active in that period. This is the first time they have performed together in Australia.

Laetitia Grimaldi Spitzer was born in France, lived in Lisbon and London and began her vocal studies with Teresa Berganza. She continued her studies in New York at the Manhattan School of Music and obtained a master’s degree from the Juilliard School. She enjoys a busy international career in recitals and opera.

Soprano Laetitia Grimaldi. Photo by PETER HISLOP

Ammiel Bushakevitz was born in Israel and grew up in South Africa. He studied in Leipzig and Paris and has won numerous prizes for his piano playing in Europe, performing regularly in festivals and concerts around the world.

Laetitia Grimaldi gave excellent performances of songs by Duparc, Canteloube, Fauré, Chaminade, Hahn and Delibes. Her relaxed manner gave her an immediate rapport with the audience and she sang confidently and with great precision. In the songs that required humour, seductiveness or deep emotion, she was especially convincing. The four songs by Chaminade were perhaps the highlight of her performance as she was able to show all facets of her voice and acting ability with these very contrasting works.

Ammiel Bushakevitz performed three piano solos by Liszt. “Les jeux d’eaux á la Villa d’Este” was a highly atmospheric work capturing the sound of the fountains at the Villa d’Este near Rome. Liszt’s “La mort d’Isolde” – a tribute to Richard Wagner’s work – captured the highly emotional finale of Wagner’s opera “Tristan und Isolde” and “Soirée de Vienne VII” was a lighter, joyful work. The three quite different works were an excellent choice to showcase Bushakevitz’s impressive mastery of the piano.

This was an excellent concert with two highly skilled artists and a very well chosen set of works from the time of the Belle Époque.

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