Breathless playing in afternoon of musical delights

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Croatian pianist Ivan Horvatic displayed flawless technique, heartfelt passion for the music and a command of the piano in dynamics and shadings with a confidence that left the audience breathless with delight. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Afternoon Delights”, Rumsey & Friends, at Wesley Music Centre, October 13. Reviewed by TONY MAGEE

PIANIST Andrew Rumsey and colleagues, devised and presented a varied and highly entertaining afternoon of music.

Visiting Croatian pianist Ivan Horvatic opened the concert with “Black Earth” by Fazil Say and the “Etude No. 1” by Boris Papandopulo.

In both these he displayed flawless technique, heartfelt passion for the music and a command of the piano in both dynamics and shadings with a confidence that left the audience breathless with delight.

Franz Liszt’s famous and hugely popular “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” followed.

Horvatic opted for a “safe” rendition – again flawless in technique, but lacking some of the magic, bravura, fire and dizzy, almost random thoughts, that might occur to someone who is prepared to take a few risks and dismiss the minor wrong notes or flaws that could occur as a result. Ginsberg, Paderewski, Hofmann, Cortot and Tozer were the supreme masters of this style of interpretation.

However, what stood out in Horvatic’s performance was his very economical use of the sustain pedal. Every note, chord, phrase and cadence point was crystal clear and precise. This in itself set up his interpretation as something unique and to be admired.

Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite” followed with Andrew Rumsey and Horvatic in piano duet. A satisfactory rendition, but one which was more an exercise in sight reading rather than a fully rehearsed performance.

Guitarist Matt Withers premiered two pieces by Canberra composer Sally Greenaway, who introduced the pieces herself. “En Las Sombras” and “Poem III” were both performed with skill by Withers, but his playing was marred by amplification from a small speaker system on stage which had a booming bass frequency at around 800 Hertz.

Greenaway’s compositions were delightful and moving. She is a very talented composer.

The other high-points in the concert came from the Rumsey brothers themselves.

Andrew played an expressive and emotional rendition of Rachmaninov’s “Elegy in E Flat minor” as well as the premiere of Canberra composer Michael Dooley’s “Rockatta”, which is an intense piano solo piece exploring jazz rhythms, rock and classical phrasing, all mixed in together in a clever and stylistically unique way.

Rumsey delivered the goods with aplomb and confidence.

His brother Danny played three pieces on his new and specially made instrument, which is a fascinating combination of harp and zither.

The high point of his bracket was a passionate and sensitive reading of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”, so very beautifully in tune, with rich chords and an almost “colla voce” style of melody.

Danny also holds 11 world records for Down syndrome swimming and has competed in Taiwan, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Australia.

The concert closed with a piano duet arrangement of selections from Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite”. I felt this bracket was played as if just “going through the motions”. It was enjoyable enough, but lacked passion.

Overall though, a skilful and varied program which truly reflected the title, “Afternoon Delights”.

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