A star is born…..Mariam Batsashvili at the Wigmore Hall.
There has certainly been a line up of great pianists this week with the winners of the Leeds,Santander competitions and Beatrice Rana`s magnificent Goldbergs for the BBC but what we heard this morning may be likened to the reverence with which the great pianists of the past spoke about the legendary Leopold Godowsky.
There was magic in the air from the very first note.
A phenomenal sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing with such purity allied to a complete immersion in the style together with a subtle sense of rhythmic energy.
The Concerto in D minor BWV.974 by Marcello in the transcription of J.S.Bach was played with just such subtle sense of rhythm and colour . The Adagio displayed her artistry to the full where the melodic line was allowed to whisper thanks to the amazing control of the left hand. But a sound of such beauty that it was projected even to the back of the hall. The infectious rhythm of the Presto with all its stylistic shading was indeed a very rare thing.
But even in the Liszt arrangement of Handel’s Sarabande and Chaconne from Almira S181 she displayed her wonderful sense of colour that she was able to transmit not only in the quiet melodic passages but also in the overwhelmingly full but never percussive fortissimo passages that abound in this very rarely heard Liszt transcription.
Beethoven`s youthful “Rage over a lost penny” had all the “tongue in cheek ” humour allied to an amazing pianistic control as she threw herself into it at breakneck speed.
But even at this speed the music spoke with such subtle good taste and control that I would certainly not have thought it possible until hearing it today in Mariam’s golden hands.
With all the half light “will`o the wisp “shading this was what virtuosity really means as Godowskys illustrious colleagues were well aware and were only too happy to bow to a superior being as many of the very fine pianists present today certainly were.
Leslie Howard the legendary Liszt authority was present and it was thanks to him and the Utrecht/Liszt Competition that we were able to witness the London debut of this twenty three year old future star .
Such subtle colours together with an infectious rhythmic pulse in the Allegro Barbaro by Bartok but completely different from the previous works such was her identification with this unique sound world.
Enormous sonorities at the end of Liszt`s 13th Hungarian Rhapsody defied belief not only because of the sparrow type stature of this great artist but because of the enormous sound without the slightest hardness that she was able to produce. Such subtle rubato and aristocratic good taste in what can so often vulgarly demean these masterpieces .
This led to the Tarantella from Venezia e Napoli where the delicate return of the melody was of such sublime beauty I just thank God that I was present today to witness it.
Her double octaves at the end were of “Horowitz”proportions.
After that an encore would have been unthinkable for lesser mortals but not for our “`gal “who treated us to the fourth Paganini study of such subtle charm and quiet virtuosity especially having only at the end ,on the way to the Green Room, noticed it was on a Yamaha grand.