Review: Chichester Cathedral Lunchtime Concerts series – Nataly Ganina, piano

Chichester Cathedral, Mar 5

Chopin’s not a bad idea for a favourite composer. Rich, with great melodies, charismatic and the Complete Works fit onto 16 discs. I can see why anybody might choose him. Nataly Ganina began with an Impromptu, op. 29 no. 2, that was by turns almost flirtatious and thoughtful without being Chopin in top gear.

Tchaikovsky is more like an entry-level favourite composer. At school, our music teacher told us that Bach was a better composer than Tchaikovsky and I thought, What? Has the man gone out of his mind? What did Bach do to compare with the 1812 Overture?But it wasn’t too long before I realized he had been right and I’d been wrong and now that seems more like a matter of fact than of opinion. However, Tchaikovsky remains a representative of the acceptable face of Romanticism and three pieces from The Seasons were descriptive and not prone to excess. The calm Song of the Lark was followed by a short ride in a fast machine with wintry scenery in Troika and more party games and friendship than religious revelation in Christmas.

A candidate for highlight of the programme was Chopin’s Nocturne, op. 9 no. 1, nuanced in tempi and timbre and in line with my increasing preference for less than extravagance in piano performance and use being made of the subtler range between piano and forte. The self-evidence of some of my note-taking has rarely been more obvious than when scribbling ‘more waltzy’ for what was next, a Mazurka but that is evidence that it did what it said on the tin.

Nataly then picked her way through five selected Rachmaninov Preludes that went from sombre and minor to signature Rach rhapsody in the major, then from delicacy to G sharp minor that shimmered with more intensity before letting go into the op. 23 no. 5, which strode purposefully to a larger-scale finish. I’d say ‘more Russian-ly’ except that isn’t a term of approval at the present time.

All of which made for a well thought-out lunchtime repast of these giants of often big-sounding music not quite so unrestrained because any artist worthy of the name needs to be able to do more than one thing and Nataly, never showy and always considered, was the right pianist to do so. Her picture here brings to mind the paintings of Vermeer, a photograph equally well realized. There’s a time and place for fireworks and the 1812 but it doesn’t hold quite the same place in my hit parade as it did fifty years ago.

David Green

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