19-10-2011
Times of Malta
Smooth blend of high-quality playing
Roberto Cominati’s piano recital offered a remarkable programme consisting of Schumann’s Carnaval and a number of transcriptions for solo piano, mainly of operatic music from the baroque, classical, and romantic periods. The excellent performance was received very well by the audience. Besides being a further occasion to witness the artistry of this acclaimed Italian pianist as he has already performed in Malta, this recital was also a wonderful opportunity to listen to an array of piano music which is scarcely known locally. Schumann’s Carnaval, a very technically and emotionally demanding piece, is a set of 22 musical “scenes” taking inspiration from a theme by Schubert. They are meant to describe the composer’s own personality as well as close friends, mingled with characters from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. The setting being carnival, some scenes are indeed very playful and jolly, yet others are quite dramatic. All of these moods were excellently brought out in Mr Cominati’s performance. The second half of the programme started out with Giovanni Sgambati’s transcription of Dance of the Blessed Spirits after Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice. This dance, which is also popular as an orchestral concert-piece, depicts Orfeo in Elysium, hence its serene and blissful nature. Next came Franz Liszt’s Sarabande and Chaconne after Handel’s opera Almira, a transcription which manifests some deviations from the original material. Again very demanding, this piece was beautifully played by Mr Cominati, who managed to bring out this transcription’s nature as a pianistic piece in its own right. Leopold Godowsky’s transcription of J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 3 for solo cello stands in contrast with the previous works in that there is no obvious narrative background. Godowsky supplied the poly-phony to the originally unaccompanied cello line. Otherwise he preserved the baroque nature of the suite, including the succession of its sections: prelude, allemande, courante, sarabande, bourrée I and II, and gigue. The last of this series of transcriptions was Moritz Mosz-kowski’s adaptation of Chanson Bohème from Bizet’s Carmen, where in Act II of the original opera Carmen and her friends are seen enjoying themselves in a tavern. This piano transcription calls for virtuoso technique, and Mr Cominati once more dazzled the audience. The encore consisted of Claire de Lune from Debussy’s Suite Bergamesque, a choice which reflects Mr Cominati’s knowledge of Debussy’s works for solo piano. The impressionistic nature of the piece carried on the programmatic, almost narrative, strain prevalent in the previous works. Mr Cominati’s return to the Manoel Theatre was therefore a tribute to the versatility of the instrument itself, going beyond the more traditional genres such as sonata or prelude and venturing into the realms of programme music and opera. Contrary to the expectation that transcriptions should simply be piano renderings of memorable operatic or otherwise orchestral music with the emphasis on melody alone, this recital showed how some great composers managed to imbue transcriptions with a pianistic quality, making them effective repertoire pieces for solo piano.
John A. Fsadni