st patrick's church, dalkey
Tashkent-born pianist Eugene Mursky was a particular favourite of the late John Ruddock – a man of remarkable insight who offered an unusual array of artistic excellence to Irish audiences for almost five decades.
A founder of the Limerick Music Association in the 1960s, John Ruddock became synonymous with quality in the field of concert promotion.
With a penchant for emerging Eastern Europe talent, Ruddock was keen on pianists and string ensembles. Indeed, some of the finest quartets, Takács, Prazák and Vogler included, made their Irish debuts under his auspices.
Eugene Mursky's recital in Dalkey sadly serves as a memorial tribute to the indefatigable sponsor who died last May at the age of 88, but Mursky's programme is one John Ruddock would have relished.
Beginning with Chopin's 'First Ballade', the church's acoustic brings immediate clarity to my under-gallery seat in a rear pew.
Mursky's interpretation, with dramatic impulse as well as seamless melodic phrasing, unashamedly embraces the music's Romantic mould.
The move to Chopin's 'B flat minor Sonata' finds Mursky's presenting the music beautifully. In the opening doppio movimento, the composer's climaxes are tastefully controlled through Mursky's judiciously graded dynamics. The scherzo brings a bellicose attack but its trio has a gracious elegance.
Mursky treats the famous 'Funeral March' with due ceremony. Its atmospheric muffled-drum effect sets a scene of ritual procession. He later imbues the centrepiece with heroic passion and the ghostly chill he elicits from Chopin's short, enigmatically whirring 'Finale' has convincing relevance.
Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition' completes the programme inabounding pianistic colour.
The troubadour's song at 'The Old Castle' has a convincing sense of lament. There is trundling sluggishness in the sketch of 'Bydlo (A Polish Oxcart)' and cheekiness in the 'Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks'.
The pompous Goldenberg gloats over the snivelling Schmuyle in 'Two Polish Jews' before the bickering women at the 'Limoges Market Place' give way to the eerie gloom of 'Catacombs'. 'Baba Yaga' howls on her witch's broomstick before the pianist peals the sonorous kremlin bells at the 'Great Gate of Kiev'.
John Ruddock would have revelled in Eugene Mursky's contrasting bravura and lyricism. The Dalkey audience certainly does in this fitting celebration.