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Mid-afternoon presentation -- Stars in the Afternoon -- featured Elizabeth Leonskaja in recital. She is an incredible pianist. Wearing a bright royal blue gown, she seated herself at the Hamburg Steinway and performed Schumann's Papillons Op 2, in such a way that I will never again listen to that work in the same way as I had done previously. Ms Leonskaja is not a demonstrative pianist, and displays no great emotion as she performs. There is, however, an abundance of intelligence and intensity. The brief dances were pianistic marvels of distinction at her fingertips.

The second work on this program was Schubert's Sonata in G major D 894, to which she gave the same meticulous attention. Words fail me. What can you say about perfection, after all? The response from the audience was very enthusiastic, and Ms Leonskaja kindly responded with not one, but two encores! I thought I recognized the first one, but have not met one person who agrees with my idea. On the other hand, neither has anyone come up with a title for the second one. She is still here, and in fact, will perform again on Monday evening, so perhaps I can discover the identity of them. Choices range from Chopin, to Schubert to Schumann and even Liszt. Stay tuned!

The evening concert brought back the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet for the world première of Prelude and Toccata for String Quartet by John Kinsella. The piece begins with the quartet playing in unison, and so closely together that while you see the bows moving, you hear only one note. Incredible! When they diverged from their all-together notes, they displayed lovely harmonies with an occasional return to unison playing, although there were also a few chirps and squawks here and there. It was an altogether lovely piece, and the audience was duly appreciative -- of both the quartet and the composer, who sat close enough to have reached out and touch any of them had he so wished. I've been much struck by the unique and very rich sound of this quartet, and am wondering if it's because of their seating arrangement. Most quartets have the two violins adjacent to each other, then the viola, and the cello opposite the first violin. Not so the RTÉ Vanbrugh. They have the two violins facing each other, with the viola and cello facing frontwards between them, just slightly to the rear. Perhaps next time I hear them, I'll be seated on the other side of the Bantry House Library, and will see if my ears betray me or agree with this notion.

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Copyright © 3 July 2007 Kelly Ferjutz, Bantry, Ireland


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