Music and Vision homepage




Martyna Jatkauskaite plays Mozart and Schumann,
enjoyed by ROBERT HUGILL


Martyna Jatkauskaite is a young Lithuanian pianist who is currently studying at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In November 2008 she won the Jacques Samuel Intercollegiate Piano Competition which gave her as prize a Wigmore Hall recital, a concerto performance in London and a recital at the Fazioli Concert Hall in Sacile, Italy.

For her concerto performance she appeared on Thursday 19 March 2009 at the Cadogan Hall, with the London Festival Orchestra conducted by Ross Pople. They played Mozart's Piano Concerto No 24 in a concert which formed the third of the 2008/09 S W Mitchell Capital Virtuoso Piano Series. This series of concerts has become an annual event at the Cadogan Hall and each concert takes a distinctive form; distinguished soloists are accompanied in a concerto by the London Festival Orchestra but the soloist also plays a substantial solo item. So that on Thursday, in addition to the concerto, Jatkauskaite played Schumann's Symphonic Etudes, Opus 13.

The concert opened with J C Bach's Sinfonia Concertante in G for two violins, cello and orchestra. This work was written for one of Bach's own London concert series and was premièred by him in London in 1772. Known only from incomplete copies, the full manuscript recently re-surfaced in Mantua, thus allowing it to be performed as J C Bach intended. The work is scored for the solo group, strings, oboes and horns; though nominally about the two solo violins and solo cello, the work is in fact far more diverse, as the composer introduces all sorts of other solo moments. It is a sunny, attractive work and was given in a lively and incisive performance by the London Festival Orchestra. The various members of the orchestra, including the violas, made the most of the solo opportunities that Bach gave them. In fact the whole work seems to have been about exploring the variety of different textures that this particular combination of forces could provide. Rather strangely, the three movement work ends with a Menuetto, making one wonder whether Bach had intended it to end with a further movement.

In style, J C Bach's writing is far closer to that of early Mozart than J C Bach's distinguished father. The work is akin to one of Mozart's early symphonies and nothing like J S Bach's orchestral suites. In fact J C Bach was an important influence on Mozart and it would be interesting to hear more of his work.

Mozart's Piano Concerto No 24 was the last but one of the group of twelve which Mozart wrote for Vienna in the 1780s. Piano Concerto No 24, in C minor, is dated 24 March 1786, and Mozart premièred the work two weeks later. Like all his works in minor keys, the piece has a depth and seriousness to it which is lacking in some of the sparkling major key pieces. Written for a large orchestra, the piece has a positively symphonic character. The London Festival Orchestra played the work with relatively small forces, under twenty strings, which gave the opening an incisive and lithe character. But Pople and his forces ensured that Mozart's dark, passionate colouration was not neglected. Jatkauskaite's first piano entry displayed both poise and clarity. This continued throughout the piece. She displayed easy grace, never attempting to be over showy, but also never trying to make the piano part more 'Sturm und Drang' than it really is. This was a performance which, despite modern instruments, was firmly anchored in the 1780s rather than viewing the concerto as a pre-cursor of Beethoven's heavier ones. There were many felicitous aspects of Jatkauskaite's performance, but what I find I come back to is the grace and clarity of her playing, aptly matched by her platform manner.

Jatkauskaite opened the second half with Robert Schumann's Symphonic Etudes (Etudes Symphoniques), Op 13. If the music of the Mozart concerto had seemed deceptive in its elegant simplicity, the Schumann was firmly in the virtuoso camp. In this work, Schumann composed a series of variations on a theme provided for him by Baron von Fricken (who was the guardian of the real Estrella from Carnaval). Each of the movements is a study, which taxes the pianist in some different way, exploring the possibilities of the piano. They are symphonic in that the pianist is required to deliver a positively orchestral wealth of colour and texture.

Martyna Jatkauskaite at Cadogan Hall
Martyna Jatkauskaite at Cadogan Hall

Jatkauskaite's performance had all the virtues of her Mozart, allied to a secure technique and an enviable power in the stronger passages. Clarity and grace are not necessarily the adjective which you would think to apply to Schumann's taxing studies, but Jatkauskaite certainly brought them to bear on this difficult music. Her performance was romantic without ever being stressful, her power and virtuosity were held in the service of the music rather than showing off for its own sake.

The programme finished with a performance of Boccherini's Symphony No 6 in D minor, G506, La Casa del Diavolo. This symphony dates from 1771, during Boccherini's early sojourn in Spain, and the score remained in Madrid until it was lost in a fire in 1936. An early French edition describes the work as representing Hell in imitation of that which is included in Gluck's Stone Banquet, and it is very much Gluck who is called to mind in the work. Like the J C Bach work which opened the concert, Boccherini's symphony seemed to delight in the variety of textures which the composer could call forth from his relatively small orchestra.

The London Festival Orchestra seemed to relish the diabolic challenges that Boccherini set them, and gave us a crisply sparkling account of the work, which made me determined to listen to more Boccherini.

This concert was notable for Martyna Jatkauskaite's poised concerto performance. But Ross Pople and his orchestra ensured that there was plenty of musical interest and fine playing in their orchestral contributions, the whole adding up to a satisfying evening. There is one more concert left in this series, when Piers Lane will be playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No 22 on 14 May 2009.

Copyright © 22 March 2009 Robert Hugill, London UK


 << Music & Vision home                  Romeo and Juliet >>