Friday, 16 December 2011

A South American Sensation - Duo Teresa Carreño Piano and 'Cello: Ana Laura Manero & Arturo Serna take Glenorchy by storm Wednesday 30 November

Award-winning Venezuelan pianist
Ana Laura Manero
Another prize-winner from Venezuela
'cellist Arturo Serna

Lunchtime concerts at Glenorchy United Reformed Church in Exmouth never disappoint - and often they amaze. The unlikely arrival of a Venezuelan musical duo at the end of November was a surprise, and a revelation!

The two young musicians have both recently completed their post-graduate studies in music. Ana Laura Manero did great things at the Royal College of Music, while Arturo Serna distinguished himself at Trinity College. Both have since won a clutch of music prizes apiece.

In combination they are simply superb. Their playing is emotional, adventurous - and amazingly precise. The audience on Wednesday were utterly spellbound by the incredible skill and expressiveness of our two talented vistors.

intense concentration
absolute precision

A young Heitor Villa-Lobos
The concert started with a distinct South American flavour - music from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Reflecting the youth and vitality of the two musicians, the first item on the programme was a suite of pieces for 'cello and piano by the 26 year old Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Lucília Guimarães
Heitor's wife -
and piano accompanist
Lucília Guimarães
Much of Villa-Lobos music in later life was associated with his lover Arminda Neves d'Almeida.  However, he never divorced his first wife - pianist Lucília Guimarães. They were married in 1912 when they were both 25. The following year Heitor composed his 'Paquena Suite for 'Cello and Piano'. As world war erupted in Europe, Heitor and Lucília played 'cello and piano in the premiere performance at the Teatro de Victoria Eugenia in the Basque region of northern Spain in the new year of 1915.

This romantic history was reflected in the sensuously romantic playing of our two extremely talented Venezuelan musicians. With a wink from Arturo to Ana Laura, they launched into that familiar combination of baroque counterpoint and Brazilian folk music for which Villa-Lobos is famous. The opening 'Romancette' was Sensual and slow. They both showed intense concentration as they combined the sounds of the two instruments perfectly. The top of the Venables grand was opened wide to allow maximum volume from the piano to match Arturo's power on the 'cello.

The 'Legendaria' was short and fast - and lots of fun. The 'Harmonias Soltas' was intensely sad with long doleful notes sustained on the 'cello. The 'Fugato all'Antica' was fast and furious again, before the slow sensitive 'Melodia' - played with incredibly precise rhythm by Ana Laura. The final 'Gavotte' was marked 'scherzo' - a joke - but was actually quite serious - until the final note. A sudden and unexpected single pizzicato note - what a way to finish!

Pluck! - a perfect ending to the Paquena Suite
 Duo Teresa Carreño play the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos

Franz Schubert
Arpeggione Arpeggione

Moving back in time to 1822, and across the Atlantic to Europe, the next piece was composed by the twenty five year old Franz Schubert. Sonata for Cello and Piano. As Arturo explained the piece was originally written for a now outdated instrument - the arpeggione. This eight stringed, bowed, guitar like instrument is now sadly no longer widely in use. Schubert's sonata has been adapted and arranged for various other instruments - viola, clarinet - even tuba, and is also a very important part of the modern 'cello repertoire.

The opening Allegro was immediately lively and exciting. While Ana Laura leapt with gazelle-like agility about the piano keyboard, Arturo used an amazing technique - hopping from thumb to fingertip all the way to the very highest notes on the fingerboard.

adventurous and accurate
agile and playful

For three delightful movements - allegro moderato, adagio and allegretto - the duo alternated between slow sensuality and intense passion. Throughout all, their exacting presicion never wavered. What an exquisite perfection!

Ástor Piazzolla
To finish the concert Ana Laura and Arturo returned to South America - to Buenos Aires in Argentina this time, and the music of the great bandoneón player, and master of the tango, Ástor Piazzolla. This is the music of a much older man. At the age of seventy Piazzolla dedicated his 'cello and piano masterpiece 'Le Grand Tango' to the Russian 'cellist Mstislav Rostropovitch.

Mstislav Rostropovich - cellist & Benjamin Britten - conductor
Mstislav Rostropovitch
(Conductor Benjamin Britten)
Rostropovitch gave the premiere perfromance in New Orleans in 1992 when Piazzolla was seventy eight - two years before he died. This wonderful atonal mixture of tango and jazz introduces fantastic new effects.

In particular, both Ana Laura and Arturo slid up and down their respective scales in sensational glissandi, interspersed with complex chords. Ana Laura watched Arturo like a hawk to ensure that each glissando and each chord was perfectly synchronised between the two instruments.

The flavour of Piazzola's earlier music kept shining through - elements of the 'Muerte del Ángel' seemed to fade in and out of focus, bringing a feeling of familiarity to this very novel piece. Ana Laura also had a lovely story to tell in the piano line - accompanied by simple open strings bowed by Arturo. Finally, Arturo got the last word with a single slow glissando down the bass string of the 'cello. A simple, studied and sensational end to a superb recital. Very well done!

glissando on the piano
and the 'cello

It is a testament to the quality and popularity of David Lee's Lunchtime Concerts at Glenorchy United Reformed Church that this internationally acclaimed duo approached him to appear at Glenorchy. Even after one of the pair (we're still not sure which) injured a wrist and their concert earlier this year had to be abandoned, they still insisted on reschuduling as soon as they were able. What good news for the people of Devon that they did! An absolutely outstanding concert. Brilliant and beautiful - a terpsichorean tour de force!

David Lee, organist at Glenorchy, has more musical treats planned for late 2012 - once the renovations to the church have been completed. In addition to all our wonderful local musicians, will there be another visit by this vibrant Venezuelan duo. Let's hope so!

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