Wednesday 25 April 2018

Review: New Ross Piano Festival at St Mary's Church

Some of the students performing at New Ross Piano Festival
Some of the students performing at New Ross Piano Festival

Pat O'Kelly

The 11th New Ross Piano Festival offers an eclectic choice of programmes in the agreeable acoustic of St Mary’s Church.

In two back-to-back events, I catch all of this year’s musicians.

In Bach’s 1st Partita, artistic director Finghin Collins brings a carefree air to the dancing Courante as it slips merrily along. His Sarabande is stately but never stodgy while hopping Minuets precede the vitality of his final Gigue.

Some solid Schumann – the Piano Quintet and the Kreisleriana fantasy  – reap a richly romantic harvest. However, I feel the Quintet’s joie de vivre should have ended the recital rather than the more enigmatic and softly receding conclusion of the solo piano pieces.

But never mind, with French Quatour Ebène and Australian pianist Piers Lane in one and US artist Nicholas Angelich in the other, both performances are exemplary.

The Quintet has strings and piano perfectly balanced with the Ebène never swamped by Lane’s weighty tone. Besides, the players’ obvious enjoyment in their music making adds spice to audience relish.

Kreisleriana’s opposing episodes has Angelich thoughtfully expressive in the poetic nature of these lyrical essays. He is also the intrepid interpreter of Raymond Deane’s festival commission, The Walling of the Town, where the virtuosic music quivers, hammers, marches and dances with striking panache.

The late-night French/Irish piano duettists Nathalia Milstein and Jonathan Morris spread the beguiling charms of Fauré, Ravel and Bizet. With finesse in the Dolly Suite, mystic beauty in Mother Goose and élan in Children’s Games, I leave bewitched.

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