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Review: A persuasive and powerful pianist

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Joanna MacGregor

Joanna MacGregor

Joanna MacGregor

Under Music Network's auspices, internationally renowned pianist Joanna MacGregor is on a seven-stop nationwide tour. I catch her at the airy Pillar Room in a musical sketch of her life entitled Cross Border.

Eclectic and mildly eccentric, Ms MacGregor begins by interspersing Bach and Shostakovich preludes and fugues. Nicely articulate in Bach's fast and furious C Minor Prelude, its fugue continues with bouncing rhythm.

Shostakovich's E flat is adversarial while his more extended D flat Prelude has an inebriated sway with its fugue engaging dramatic force. The Pillar Room resounds with reverberant clangour.

Ms MacGregor is at her most persuasive in a group of Chopin Mazurkas with interpretations that are gentle, lyrical and introspective. But she also powerfully conveys Chopin's mood of patriotic protest as well as his firm objectives.

Moving to America, The Alcotts movement from Charles Ives' Concord Sonata opens with hymn-like respect for Beethoven's 5th Symphony motto but, like much of Ives, the score becomes extravagantly multi-layered.

In her own arrangements, Ms MacGregor pays homage to Thelonius Monk and Professor Longhair while the traditional Deep River and Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down are refreshed in her imaginative music-scapes.

Through percussive attack and wild washes of pianistic colour, her over-the-top take on four Piazzolla Tangos becomes somewhat anarchic.

Conor Linehan's Roadshow fluently mixes vaudeville, cabaret and jazz in well-constructed and neatly interlocking sections.

Commissioned by Ms MacGregor, she takes its virtuosic challenges in her unassailable stride.

Irish Independent