Nathalia Milstein at St Ann’s Church, Dublin, 11th October 2016.

Last year she won the Dublin International Piano Competition, in February she gave a recital at The National Concert Hall, and tonight Nathalia Milstein begins a ten-day tour of Ireland with this concert in St Ann’s Church on Dawson Street.

Her wide-ranging programme takes in Bach, Mozart, Bartók, Liszt, Ravel, as well as a piece commissioned from Gráinne Mulvey for the Dublin International Piano Competition. The insightful programme notes, written by classical journalist and reviewer Pat O’Kelly, supply background and context for the diverse pieces: Bach walking for ten days to hear an inspirational keyboardist, Mozart as a busy 18-year-old musician performing his latest sonatas in Munich, and of course a few hints about the composers’ love lives. It is necessary (and frequently fascinating) to have these human reference points alongside an art form that can so easily become rarified.

Milstein gives a riveting performance of Gráinne Mulvey’s Interference Patterns, drawing on the lyrical style of the Liszt that preceded it, and also the intense energy of The Chase from the Bartók suite. Mulvey’s piece is inspired by the work of 19th century Irish scientist John Tyndall on the behaviour of waves when they meet an obstacle. A most vivid expression of this is achieved towards the end of the piece. It was as if Milstein sent two shockwaves through the piano – a remarkable gesture, the sound almost visibly emanating from the instrument. A very effective transition is achieved between the prayerful ending of Liszt’s Sonneto and Interference Patterns, as Milstein remains seated at the end of the Liszt. This meant the audience didn’t applaud, allowing Milstein to begin the next piece without breaking the atmosphere just created – a well thought out, effective, and orchestrated transition.

Maurice Ravel’s suite, Le tombeau de Couperin, was written one hundred years ago and remains one of the most delightful pieces of solo piano writing in the canon. Beginning with her head up, her demeanour calm, as the delicate machinery of the opening Prélude flutters into life, Milstein’s performance of the six movements is a joy to behold. Ravel’s extraordinary writing for the piano is brought to life in her hands and the luminous shimmer in the last bars of the Prélude is a beautiful moment. Ravel dedicates each of the movements to friends and colleagues killed in World War I. Behind the piano, the ornate rolls of honour that flank the altar in St Ann’s serve as a reminder of its congregation’s own grief at the loss of their sons during that war. The Forlane carries itself with swagger and Milstein gives an assured reading of this courtly dance, gracefully partnering with Ravel’s melancholy harmonies and finely-wrought invention.

There is something personal and intimate in Ravel’s writing. It’s there, too, in Bartók’s The Night’s Music, sometimes stellar and sometimes scrabbling, and in the Bach Toccata that opened the concert. Witnessing the artistry and technique of Nathalia Milstein’s playing tonight in the hushed church is a sublime experience.

Nathalia Milstein at St Ann's / photograph Frances Marshall

Nathalia Milstein / photograph Frances Marshall

Programme:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach – Toccata in C minor BWV 911
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Sonata No 3 in B flat K 281
  • Béla Bartók – Out of Doors Sz 81
  • Franz Liszt – Sonneto del Petrarca No 104 S 161
  • Gráinne Mulvey – Interference Patterns
  • Maurice Ravel – Le tombeau de Couperin

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