Review

Solo Recital at Sala Isouard, Manoel Theatre,

Valletta, Malta 

February 2012

by Albert G. Storace 

- Sunday Times of Malta

 

Gabi Sultana is an extremely talented and highly motivated musician who specialises in contemporary music and once a year or so she returns from abroad to present a recital as well as organise workshops. This time she also commissioned new work and her choice fell upon young André-Paul Huber (b.1983), whose The Haunted Piano was given its world premiere when it opened the recital.

 

The composer himself introduced his work explaining that it was for prepared piano, meaning in this case the placing of marbles on the strings, the use of mallets and, in due course, the tapping of the frame, plucking of strings and direct glissandi among other things.

 

The work aims at producing really impressive and nerve-jangling eerie effects. With very tense intervals, abrupt change of mood and the sound sort of captured within a confined space with the pianist’s foot on the right pedal at all times, the music never really faded out. It lived up to its name and gave one the sense of being lost in an inescapable labyrinth. Divided as Mr Huber says in seven “elements”, about midway through the work he assisted the pianist in managing some of them, joining her again towards the end.

 

Joy (2003) by Kate Moore (b. 1979) is a real ode to the quest for joy inherent in all human beings.

 

The pianist’s soft and delicate touch at the beginning gave the impression of a sweet tolling of bells until it gave way to more energetic playing.

A forceful ostinato reflects the almost maddening frenzy in search of happiness. Jubilant in mood, the pianist maintained an unshakeable determination in projecting this quest. Softer moments returned until the work went full circle, this time the re-evocation of the opening section completing the allusion to the realistic balance between quest and achievement of an emotional peak and the finality of the tragedy of death, absence and departure.

 

Veteran US composer George Crumb (b. 1929) wrote ruminations on Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight and called them Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik (2001). Those familiar with the original jazz standard piece written in 1944 could have caught whiffs of it and the ruminations were like a free and imaginative journey in which the piano was also stretched to its limits.

 

Mallets were used at some points, strings plucked and glissandi added to effect. Significant too was the playing of sections announced by the pianist counting in Italian from one to 12, at first fortissimo until by number nine only the music was heard fading away in an impressive diminuendo. Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues, written in 1979 by Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938), was the most exciting piece performed. Overpowering and overwhelming most of it was to an irrepressible ostinato rhythm projecting the monotony and suffering lot of ordinary cotton mill workers.

 

The pianist was a demon of energy, yet one of impeccable articulation and showed a softer side in a brief interlude which gave way to further agitation aided for good measure as at previous points by the use of the right forearm and that included the elbow at most times.

 

- Albert G. Storace 

Sunday Times of Malta

 

 

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