A review by Bill Windsor of the April 11, 2007 Gala Concert
Radford University in Virginia
College of Visual and Performing Arts
Department of Music
In cooperation with the
IBLA Foundation in New York City
The Radford University Department of Music in cooperation with the Ibla Foundation of New York City presented the 2006 Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofiev Competition Winner along with other IBLA International Grand Prize Competition Winners in concert on Wednesday, April 11, 2007.
The Ibla Foundation in New York City organizes an annual music competition for pianists, singers, instrumentalists and composers which takes place during the last week of June and the first week of July in Ragusa Ibla, in the southeastern corner of Sicily. Winners have been presented the following year in such venues as Carnegie Hall in New York, Tokyo Opera City Hall and other prestigious venues in Canada, Europe, Russia and the USA.
I have had the pleasure of hearing these winners for several year now, and I am still impressed by the talent and professional playing that is consistently displayed every year.
The concert took place in the Norwood Room in the University’s Boundurant Center. It was preceded by a reception in the upper floor Art Gallery.
The concert commenced at 8:10 pm with an introduction by Dr. Eugene Fellin, Department of Music Chairman at Radford University, of pianist Salvatore Moltisanti, artistic director of the event.
Opening the concert was Indonesian pianist Janice Carissa (8 years old) performing Jamaican Fumble composed by Sonny Chua, a Malaysian composer who resides and teaches in Melbourne, Australia. She performed the piece with a lot of humor and swing: this was a great way to unclutter your mind! the light spirit was very well captured. This young girl is a treasure trove overall, very talented pianistically and musically! Bravo!
Soon after young Indonesian pianist, Ryan Ferguson (11 years old) followed up performing an Etude by Russian composer Nikolai Kapustin with absolutely lovely tone. There certainly is a certain smoothness to his sound that makes his playing exquisite. Bravo!
Another young Indonesian pianist Regina Adelya Tanujaya performed Fragment by contemporary Indonesian composer Jaya Suprana. It is based on an interesting ethnic theme with continuous and sometimes odd variations, almost improvisations. She sounded definitely at ease in this contemporary composition. Bravo!
The other work on the program was the Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints by Alan Hovhaness which emanated a haunting beauty. The performer Kelsey Tamayo accompanied at the piano by her own mother, Mrs. Tamayo, manifested impressive talent and technique on a marimba and xylophone. Ms. Tamayo, a ‘military brat’ from Kansas (apparently both her parents are or have been on active military duty) dressed in a Japanese dress with gentle flowers on her head. Bravo to both!
Violinist Lukasz Lagun Kuzminski and piano accompanist Alessio Quaresima performed Nigun from Baal Shem by Ernest Bloch. This wonderful, heart warming work was well served by the violinist’s lyrical singing lines, with excellent support from the piano accompanist. The Hebraic Baal Shem is one of Bloch's most often heard works and here it was done with great folk flavor. Mr. Lagun Kuzminski takes some liberty with the specific tempi, but his lyricism captures the essence of the music. Bravo!
Mr. Lagun Kuzminski then performed the Polish Capriccio for solo violin by Grazyna Bacewicz, herself a virtuostic violinist and pianist. This piece is a breathtaking showstopper with a sweet lyricism that was well presented. There is something so special about this music: the Polish Capriccio (1949) begins with a slow, unabashedly romantic meditation and concludes in an abstract whirlwind of a folk dance. It reveals Bacewicz’s clever transformation of short folk motifs.
Piano accompanist Alessio Quaresima displayed his solo talent with a performance of the Prelude in G minor by Rachmaninoff. Mr. Quaresima offered an effervescent, idiomatic and resplendent performance of the prelude. He emphasized with scrupulosity the wide range and the diverse spectre of the orchestral instruments, with a certain showmanship. Bravo!
Dr. Moltisanti, himself a former Bartok Competition 1991 First Prize winner, indicated a brief story of the recent IBLA Foundation relationship with the Radford University Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofiev Competition.
He then proceeded to introduce pianist Macieji Granat, the highlight of the evening, who performed the Second Sonata (1945) by Dmitri Kabalevsky.
Dr. Moltisanti presented the audience with the option of hearing only some movements of this very long sonata. The performance of the full sonata would have greatly extended the duration of the evening program. The audience fully embraced the tough challenge of hearing the full sonata. Bravo to the Radford audience!
The Radford debut performance that Mr. Granat gave on Wednesday evening was part of his winnings as the gold medalist of the most recent Radford University Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofiev Competition. The craftsmanship and idiomatic piano writing of this rarely heard work are admirable. This is very likely Kabalevsky's most ambitious solo piano work; its reliance on Prokofiev's Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sonatas is plain to hear, as is the melancholic tone. If anyone needs a sharp reminder of Kabalevsky’s greatness, then this is it. Mr. Granat showed such a teasing and skilled mastery of tone in his tantalizingly biting and acerbic approach, when not suave and luxuriant. His performance of the slow movement was more speculative remembering, like Debussy, a long-vanished world of childhood innocence. This was very inspiring, and heart felt. It makes you glad to be alive when hearing such remarkable music. Mr. Granat makes Kabalevsky sound so indelibly Russian rather than frivolous. He casts an aura of rare distinction over it. Certainly he has his work cut out in keeping the audience’s attention on the Second Sonata’s arid stretches where the ghost of Prokofiev remains obstinately in attendance. The color and hyper-virtuosity make the finale irresistible with nonchalance and demonism that Mr. Granat commanded very well. Bravo!
Another highlight of the evening was the Radford premiere performance of Ibla Antica by Italian composer, Marcello Abbado. This performance was dedicated to the memory of Angela Boone, a former IBLA Foundation member. Pianists Salvatore Moltisanti and Chie Sato Roden have such considerable experience that it is not surprising that they are poised, assured players with solid technique. Mr. Abbado's tough, angular variations on a interesting theme based on an musical series was rendered with clear yet dense contrapuntal textures. There was emotional edge in their playing along with energy and continuous singing. They delivered with virtuosistic and flourish flair the fugato development form of the piece. Moltisanti's and Roden’s playing is so beautiful and poetic that it could win some new converts to contemporary music. They have a gift for song. Their rendition of this beautiful piano piece was extraordinary. Theirs was an excursion into a sound-world that seems phantasmagorical, other-worldly, wondrous, an ethereal experience. Bravo to both!
Singer Simona Rodano and piano accompanist Alessio Quaresima followed with a theatrical rendition of La Vie En Rose by Louiguy, Over the rainbow by Harburg/Harlen, Volare by Modugno/Migliacci and Come Fly With Me by Cahn/Van Heusen. Ms. Rodano is an experienced singer whose talent and exotic voice has led to more appearances with the IBLA Foundation. She manifests great versatility while displaying her charismatic and bewitching acting abilities. She performed in various languages and transformed herself into three different personas by sudden and skillful costume changes. Bravo!
The South African Piano Duo Laura Pauna and Cara Hesse performed Feria from Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole. A feria (Latin for "free day") was a day on which the people were not obliged to work, and on which there were no court sessions.
Rapsodie espagnole (alternatively spelt 'Rhapsodie') is an orchestral rhapsody written by Maurice Ravel between 1907 and 1908, and represents one of Ravel's first major works for orchestra. The Rapsodie reflects the profound influence of the Spanish musical heritage that was imparted to Ravel by his Basque mother. As a child, Ravel would listen to his mother sing him folk songs from her country. Later works by Ravel such as Bolero and the opera L'heure espagnole also claim similar sources of inspiration. It was simply lavishly performed, with winds and brass coming out of a piano along with plenty of percussion. The Feria, a high-spirited holiday scene celebration, is at one point interrupted with a languorous interval. Ms. Pauna and Ms. Hesse were able to perform this section soft as suede, with a clear presentation of the English horn and solo clarinet, followed by the four-note motif from movement one, before resuming the merriment with even more enthusiasm, frenziedly and brilliantly. Bravo to both!
A well deserved standing ovation welcomed all the performers on stage for a final salute!
An impressive array of talent from South Africa, Poland, Indonesia, Japan, Italy and USA had been displayed!
The 2007 Competition is scheduled to take place from June 28 to July 8 in the magnificent baroque quarters of Ragusa Ibla.
Visit the Foundation online at http://www.ibla.org/ for additional information.
We certainly look forward to hear the future winners!