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A lunchtime piano recital by Maiko Mori,
heard by BILL NEWMAN


This lovely young lady pianist hails from Japan. Introduced to me by Chisato Kusonoki, she glanced at my large collection of CDs, DVDs and books on music, and I soon found out about her discoveries and preferences. She registered delight when I began talking about British music and my enormous respect for the long line of post-Romantic composers stemming from or contemporary with the accepted master composers: Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst and Britten. Our mutual admiration for the works of Sir Arnold Bax pleased me particularly, and from the same years that linked up with The Festival of Britain in 1951, is another favourite of mine -- John Ireland. Would I come to her mid-day recital [Tuesday 12 May 2009 at the Parish Church of St Mary's, Watford, UK], where she would be including in her programme a movement from his suite of pieces entitle Sarnia? Of course!

Maiko Mori
Maiko Mori

Travelling on the 142 bus from Edgware, the bus driver replied to my query about churches in Watford. 'Well, there's one ahead of us approaching the town centre. The other is to the right of us, leading from the main parade of shops'. I remembered it from years back, the grave stones -- simple and ornate -- laid back from the path that surrounds the church and the entrance that welcomes all and sundry to come inside, view the straightforward layout of pews, lectern, choir area, tributes to ... statues commemorating ... and so on. An extra room, halfway, accommodated a refreshment area. Good acoustics with not too much reverberation. Fine! A concert grand -- Danemann, not one of the leading makes, looked and sounded fairly promising. Maiko was being talked to by a worried looking guy, who turned out to be her chosen announcer: 'Did Bach sound better on a grand piano, instead of a harpsichord?' I made some innocuous reply in order to save her the bother of replying, looked round and saw a collection of bags, outdoor apparel, etc being guarded by one old lady. Her three companions, still enjoying their nosh, had commanded the front seating area, left. Opposite, on the right, was a lanky chap demolishing a packet of peppermints. A middle-aged lady in a wheelchair, in front of him, kept replenishing his supply bank during the recital itself.

Meanwhile, the worried looking guy started things rolling. He turned out to be Cheerful Charlie Chester (a modernised 'cloned' counterpart) instead. Telling his story about when he decided to purchase a piano in order to pick out the tunes before wondering whether to learn how to play properly, his wife had warned him about the possibility of forgetting to turn off the gas stove, thus ruining the meal, instead. Everything was accompanied by his own raucous laughter (with titters from the audience) until he remembered the patient young lady smiling sweetly in the wings ... 'At least we all know that this won't happen in Maiko's case. She is just a wonderful pianist, because I heard her earlier on -- practicing for her programme ... hooray!'

The recital ...

J S Bach: Fantasia, BWV906:
Immediately, I realized this was going to be something special. Stillness of posture. A concentrated attitude to the work, itself, and an inward respect for Bach's fluency of counterpoint writing. Choice of tempi and clarity of fingerwork compared to her bold-style rendering which immediately brought the musical performance alive to the attentive audience.

Beethoven: 'Les Adieux' Sonata, Op 81a:
The composer at his most radiant and poignant. This tribute to a beloved colleague who had left on a long journey, with certain registered doubts concerning his probable return was a well-thought out performance that contained the correct degree of sadness during the opening movement. In the central movement, the doubts and forebodings increased in intensity. Here, the tempo should slow, with feelings of self doubt entering the equation of Beethoven's worrying temperament. Maiko's response was slightly negative due, no doubt, to her concern of establishing the correct lead-in to the finale. The musical flow required a slower pulse overall, with the composer's pleading attitude behind and within the slurred phrasework. The sudden, dramatic contrast, with its flurried, rising turns ascending on the registered outbreak of the composer's joy at seeing his close friend once more, would therefore have been so much the greater. Fine playing, nevertheless.

Liszt: La Campanella:
I admired the steady tempo and lightness of nuance. Not the most subtle of instruments, the piano was hard to control and there was a difficulty in creating the right atmospheric feeling within the shaded notations of Liszt's rapid changes of style. They were there, of course! But one has to pray for a return performance with a more responding instrument that would bring out the singing clarity under improved conditions.

Ireland: 'On a May Morning' from Sarnia:
Right out of the top drawer. The expression is not often used at present, but the rendering corresponded with the poetic feelings of the interpreter. She 'painted' her own palette of colourings from Ireland's visionary impressions of beauty and contentment. One yearned to 'look inside' her thought processes as the continuing phrases -- largely autobiographical, throughout most of the composer's piano writing -- poured forth, exactly in accordance with the composer's rightness of conception.

Chopin: Two Nocturnes:
Fine proportion, with the right degrees of rubato phrasing: a committed singing style that brought out the sadness and drama of these musical examples.

Chopin: Waltz in A major:
Here, the corresponding rubati match the composer's changes of tempi and mood. Quite excellent throughout.

Copyright © 6 July 2009 Bill Newman,
Edgware UK















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