Following the all-Chopin programme in the cathedral on Thursday, a different Portsmouth audience were taken further into the Romantic piano via some landmark pieces in Valentina Seferinova’s story. The three R’s for her are more than the basis of an education.
Rachmaninov’s Barcarolle op. 10 no. 3 glittered before his Prelude op. 3 no.2 was stormier but we can’t go too soon in expending too much of our linguistic ammunition describing those because she had only just begun.
The commentary provided by such artists sheds light not only on the music but the depth of their understanding of what they are doing. Not everybody’s heard of Joachim Raff or Lubomir Rozycki but Valya knows as much as there is to know about them.
Raff’s Fantasy-Sonata began where the Rachmaninov had left off and then poured forth melody into its vast open spaces. The power and energy built and built like an ongoing explosion. I usually sit, or try to, with a view of the keyboard but today was on the opposite side and I’ve never heard Valya or possibly even the Steinway sound better. Maybe it has a big sound that rewards big performances. Maybe it was the music, the performance or where I was sitting but, not being able to hear it again from the other side, I’ll never know. The Seferinova Raff is packed with untamed grandeur and brought an immense response from a highly appreciative roomful of admirers. She is box office. I think she brings her own fan club with her.
The piano might not have been the only one that needed the tranquility of Rozycki’s Prelude as a means of recovery. There was no way that further fireworks would have worked next. But the Balladyna reprised some drama with lingering, longing passages interspersed and some use of the bottom notes that made one wonder if Rozycki would have made good use of the extra lower notes available on the cathedral’s Bosendorfer.
Now I’m not the world’s most passionate guy and for the most part I tend to prefer my klavier to be well-tempered but in my father’s house are many rooms and even the most devout ‘classical’ obsessive couldn’t fail to be thrilled by a performance like this. Such extravagance makes me wonder if Liberace wasn’t a bit undercooked.
I came home to find Yuja Wang’s new Rachmaninov discs had arrived. Much as I have been looking forward to them, I’m going to have to leave them a day or two to give them a fair hearing. First impressions can count for a lot and I don’t want to risk a mere recording to seem tepid after being quite so blown away. It might be an evening for some cool, calm Josquin des Prez.
But, thanks as ever, to Andrew for his affable way of making this series happen and all those who help him. All these events have been reward enough. I hadn’t realized that a solo Valentina recital was such a rarity. Perhaps they need not be so from now on.