“Mami Shikimori enthralled the large audience at the Old Well Theatre last Friday, delighting us as her virtuosity was, once more, totally subservient to music-making.
She began with Bach’s enchanting Prelude and Fugue in C#. It was an interesting choice for a programme featuring ground-breaking music, for this is the only prelude in the 2nd book of ‘the 48’ to retain the simple broken-chord bass that pervades his earlier set. Maybe the lively fughetta that heralded its close, and the innovative fugue were deciding factors. Maybe Mami simply saw a piece she loves as a gentle gateway to the music that followed.
Brahms was twenty when he wrote his F minor Sonata. A long, passionately emotional work in which heroic gestures and sheer energy can seem overwhelming, it lacked for neither tenderness nor delicacy. After the power and impetus of the first movement, the Andante had a lighter, improvisatory touch: beauty of tone, and subtle gradations from magical pianissimos to steadily increasing volume and tension, casting its spell. A rumbustious Scherzo led via the brief, melancholy Intermezzo to its rondo-like Finale. Strength and rhythm held sway, interrupted by two melodies that were later combined in a fugal momentum towards the work’s end. This sonata demands the listener’s ear, and Mami’s performance moulded the disparate elements of the music into a coherent whole, holding our attention to the end.
McGuire’s Harbour of Harmonies composed in 2000 opened the second half of the concert. Initially, the music conjured images of surging water gradually subsiding into stillness, but this was no chocolate box anchorage. Conflicting threads became unsettling and discord strengthened, not to fade until the closing moments when a calmer, more peaceful atmosphere emerged. As we showed our appreciation, Mami beckoned the composer from the audience to share the applause. It would be good to hear it again.
Written in the last years of Albíniz’s life, Iberia drew upon his knowledge of Spanish folk music, offering scope for performers to conjure in sound pictures of cultures in danger of losing their identity. Underpinned by firm rhythms, and endowed with a different palette of colours and tone, it separated the unease and realities at the heart of McGuire’s music from the fantastic, and at times frenetic, whirl of Ravel’s La Valse. We heard the languid Evocacíon and the lighter, dancing Triana, both pieces evoking images of sun, movement and happiness.
La Valse, conceived as orchestral ballet music, was soon transcribed for two pianos and then solo piano. Mami captured the character of the music splendidly with lilting waltzes given a hint of underlying malevolence. Again, one was caught up in the intensity and dazzling power of the work; half aware of glissandos, the speed of finger-work and an occasional blur of hands, yet hypnotised by the dance.
It had been an inspiring, thoroughly enjoyable evening.”