Thursday, 29 March 2018

Nina Leonard Savićević Lunchtime Piano Recital Saint Margaret's Church Topsham Saturday 24 March 2018

Nina Leonard Savićević

Nina Leonard Savićević has been recognised as a precocious piano virtuoso for most of her life (Details in Classical Journey Blog 21 March). Now, at 17, she is working towards A-Levels, while applying to musical conservatories, auditioning for piano competitions, and preparing live concerts for the general public.

Claude Monet
La Cathédrale de Rouen.
Le portail, soleil matinal;
harmonie bleue
(Musée d'Orsay, Paris)
Her latest series of concerts showcase six very emotive romantic pieces for the piano. Each one provides Nina with an opportunity to express herself in flamboyant flights of fancy. At her first outing in St Margaret's Church in Topsham Nina was able to demonstrate her skills on the new Yamaha grand piano.

The opening piece was Claude Debussy's deceptively gentle 1910 poetic representation of the lost city of Kêr-Is, the mythical, formerly thriving, Breton community on the west coast of Finisterre, imagined to have been created in the fifth century by Gradlon Meur, king of Kernev. According to legend the city, having been built on reclaimed land, was subsequently inundated again by the sea.

In "La Cathédrale Engloutie" (The Sunken Cathedral) Claude Debussy describes in music the reported sightings of the lost city in the early morning light, as the sun's rays penetrate the clear waters of the Baie de Douarnenez. In perfectly comprehensible but illogical metaphor, the sacred sounds of the city's cathedral become increasingly audible as the light penetrates the waters. The bells, monastic chanting, and organ music, become increasingly strident - represented in the exotic pentatonic scale of Javanese gamelan - before fading again as the sun approaches its zenith.

From impressionism, Nina moved back in time to 1895 and turned to the symbolism of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. Following in the romantic tradition of Frédéric Chopin, Scriabin developed his own atonal style inspired by his own mystical ideas, and demonstrating his principle of synesthesia, where notes and chords correspond to colours.

Alexander Scriabin
with his second wife Tatiana Schloezer
Brussels 1909
Nina played the second of Scriabin's "Deux Impromptus pour Piano" Opus 12.  The choice was inspired. In a perfect echo of Debussy's tone poem, Scriabin's 'Impropmptu' starts gently before taking a thousand delightfully twisted detours around the piano keyboard with increasing emotional intensity, before quickly and neatly resolving in a few short chords, just as it started.

As Nina points out, this slightly challenging composition might be uncomfortable to the unaccustomed ear, but in performance the piece is perfect for Nina to demonstrate her expressive and controlled technique.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
with his mother Anna Maria
Versailles 1778
Nina introduced each piece with as much enthusiasm as she played them, and added much enriching detail. Retrospectively, she invited the audience to conjure up the colours Scriabin had been evoking, before introducing a piece with a very different inspiration, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Sonata in A Minor" (number 310 in the Köchel-Verzeichnis). In a rare departure from form, Mozart used the minor key - possibly reflecting the mournful passing of his mother in the same year, 1778.

Despite the minor key, the sonata is remorselessly buoyant and full of lively and inventive quirks. Nina brought every passage to life with unrelenting vivacity and vigour. In contrast to the picturesque impressionism of her opening choices, the classical ingenuity of Mozart's work, in Nina's capable hands, was a joy to hear.

Deftly caulking the junction between classical form and romantic impressionism, Nina turned to Scriabin's inspiration - Frédéric Chopin. His Nocturne in C sharp minor is a favourite of Nina's, and one which she is constantly refining and polishing. The precise intonation satisfies the classically conditioned ear, while creating delightful romantic images.

Frédéric Chopin
attended at his deathbed by sister
Ludwika Jędrzejewicz
Paris 1849
This arresting nocturne (lento con gran espressione) was composed for Chopin's sister Ludwika in 1830 and, since Chopin's premature death from tuberculosis in 1849 has been employed to emotive effect in various contexts during the ensuing century and a half. Most notably, concert pianist Natalia Karp, owes her life to a performance for Amon Göth at the Kraków-Płaszów camp - in return for which she was spared and survived.

Nina drew on that impressive legacy in her own expressive performance, leaping from one cascade of notes to the next with nimble agility. A spectacular signature piece.

Nina's final two pieces related to the equally tragic life and death of Chopin's contemporary, Robert Schumann. In Leipzig in 1841, one year after their long-awaited marriage, Clara Schumann played the première of Robert's 'Fantasy' which was to become the opening Allegro Affettuoso of his three movement Piano Concerto in A minor - with Clara playing the première in Dresden.

Robert Schumann
Nina played a solo arrangement of the affettuoso which was a delight to hear in itself, reflecting a very uplifting period in Robert's life. At the Mannamead concert on 7 April (details below) Nina will be performing the whole concerto, with the orchestral parts recreated by Dorothy Raven on the organ at St Emmanuel's Church.

Schumann died prematurely just seven years after Chopin, in the Franz Richarz Sanatorium in Bonn. It is suspected that he had contracted syphilis as a student and that either the disease, or the cumulative effects of crude interventions with mercury salts, led to his debilitating mental health problems and final demise.

Clara Wieck
Clara was with him to the end and, apparently unscathed by the disease herself, continued to compose
and work as a piano accompanist for a further forty years. Supporting her in an ambiguous rôle as family friend and romantic admirer, was Robert's protégé Johannes Brahms. Despite being fourteen years her junior, Johannes only outlived her by one year.

In 1893, just a few years before they died, Johannes composed his final piano suite, four 'Klavierstücke' for performance in London. The final piece, the 'Rhapsody' (or Caprice) is as full of life and variety as anything Brahms created in his long and productive life. With Clara's encouragement his musical talent found an exhilarating outlet right to the very end.

Johannes Brahms
This piece was the perfect choice to end Nina's recital, and she played with all the energy and excitement that Johannes would have wanted. What a lovely way to gently close this brief tour of musical history. Nina not only astounded and fascinated her audience with her musical selection, but also demonstrated her wonderful and still developing talent as a pianist.

Nina will be in audition soon for next year's 'Young Musician of the Year' competition. What a treat it would be for television viewers, if she were to be chosen to appear. On Good Friday (30 March) between 9 and 12am Nina can be heard on Soundart Radio in an interview recorded at St Margaret's Church after the concert. The following Friday (6 April) between 2 and 4pm Nina will visit the Phonic FM studio in person, immediately after her recital at St Stephen's Church in Exeter High Street.

Nina Leonard Savicevic
Nina Leonard Savicevic
1. St Margaret's Church Topsham
    Saturday 24 March 1pm
2. St Stephen's Church Exeter
    Friday 6 April 1pm
3. St Emmanuel Church
    Mannamead Plymouth
    Saturday 7 April 7.30pm
4. Bath Abbey
    Friday 13 April 1pm
W A Mozart: Sonata in Am K310
Johannes Brahms: Rhapsody in E♭ Op 19.4
Claude Debussy: "La Cathedral Egloutie"
Alexander Scriabin: Improptu in B♭m Op 12
Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne No 20 in C#m
Sergei Rachmaninov: Prelude in C#m Op 3.2
Frédéric Chopin: Étude Opus 25.1
(plus Variations Brillantes Op 12)
Robert Schumann: Concerto in Am

Joseph Haydn: Minuet in Gm

Future Dates:

Fowey Festival of Arts - Sunday 13 May 12.30pm
Southernhay Church Exeter - Saturday 26 May 1pm
Lympstone Parish Church - Sunday 22 July 4pm

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