Enigmatic music played with skill

Tamara Stefanovich, Thoughts about the Piano, Blythburgh, June 20 Blythburgh Church, noble and uplifting as ever, was the venue for an afternoon recital by the pianist Tamara Stefanovich whose pale hair and complexion against the dark piano could easily have inspired any of the great portrait painters.

Tamara Stefanovich, Thoughts about the Piano, Blythburgh, June 20

Blythburgh Church, noble and uplifting as ever, was the venue for an afternoon recital by the pianist Tamara Stefanovich whose pale hair and complexion against the dark piano could easily have inspired any of the great portrait painters.

She began with Haydn's A flat sonata, the jerky opening figure making an immediate impression. The menuetto (surely familiar to Beethoven) was in turn crisp and flowing and the running figures of the finale were especially clear as they took off in all directions.

Bartok's 14 Bagatelles, op 6, 'stripped of all inessential decorative elements ....' ( the composer's words) made compelling listening, the earlier ones short, accessible and engaging, the remainder unexpectedly weightier.


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The forthright approach and technical facility of the pianist enabled the ethnic origin of the pieces to be fully appreciated.

Elliott Carter's recent piano music has often resulted from his personal and professional friendships with other musicians - thus Matribute - ma tribute - was written for James Levine who had asked for a piece to honour his mother.

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It proved quite a lively tribute. Intermittences, the first of the 'Two thoughts for the Piano' was written for Peter Serkin and is a response to 'the many meanings that silence can express'.

Stefanovitch's concentration in the silences between the full chord carried over to the audience to create a 'breathless hush'. Finally the brilliant toccata like Catenaire written for Pierre-Laurent Aimard and the result of a desire to write a fast, one-line piece with no chords. Technical difficulties were brushed aside in an arresting, virtuoso performance.

Schumann's Kreisleriana does not get as many outings as, say the great fantasy, but it is no less a masterpiece. To merely observe Tamara's total absorption in the frequent and rapid mood changes was a complete experience in itself, but there was so much more. Her delicacy and refinement enabled her to draw the softest of sounds from a sometimes heavy piano but she was also able to draw a wonderful sound for the cello like tune in the final number.

The rather enigmatic ending of the work possibly accounted for the fairly short-lived applause (just one return to the platform) but I know that I thoroughly enjoyed ninety minutes of musical skill and artistic intelligence.

Gareth Jones

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