Konstantinos Destounis and Petar Dimov at St James’s Piccadilly
The very enterprising Canan Maxton came up with a suprise concert of not one pianist but two at the lunchtime concert for Talent Unlimited.
Both have won numerous prizes and recognition in International Competitions and both are doing their final postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music .
Konstantinos has been studying with Dmitri Alexeev and Ian Jones and is fast making a name for himself as a promoter of the complete piano works of his compatriot Theodore Antoniou His recording of the complete works has been issued by Naxos in their series “Grand Piano”.
Petar on the other hand is also an accomplished composer with many works to his name .He is completing his piano studies with Norma Fisher.
An interesting programme that showed off the diversity of the two pianists.
Konstantinos all light and brightness and Petar all dense and intense.
It is strange how the same piano in different hands can take on the character of who is at the reigns.
It is in fact as Rubinstein described to the contestants at his very first competition.
He likened the difference in character to honey.
That no two honeys are the same because the bees go from one flower to another and choose which they will pollinate.
A pianist should should learn from that and listen to as many performances as possible and take what he likes from each to add to his own ideas and form what is known as good taste !
His own good taste .
It was very interesting for me to be able to notice how similar Petar’s Schumann was to Norma Fisher’s playing that I remember from when Sidney Harrison ,my very first teacher,took me to the Wigmore Hall to hear his star pupil.
Here was this very solid playing constructed from the bass upwards that gives a fullness of sound without any hardness .In fact almost orchestral in its density.
I well remember Norma Fisher’s Brahms Handel Variations and was reminded of that today as Petar started the Allegro molto from Schumann’s Carnaval Jest from Vienna.
(A series of recordings from the BBC archives of Norma Fisher are being released on CD to great acclaim )
The rhythms were never allowed to sag or get sentimental.
Schumann writes so many times tempo come prima or tempo come sopra so this first very long movement does not loose its sense of direction and nobility.
.The Marseillaise quote almost becomes an invitable consequence of this continual forward movement.
Interesting to note that in the choice of three Debussy Preludes by Destounis it is Feux D’Artifice where the Marseillaise is heard too but in the far distance this time.
The short Romanze makes a beautiful contrast especially in the sentitive hands of Petar.
The Scherzino that followed was played with all the lightness that contrasted well with the rather pompous interruptions and the inevitable Schumann dotted figures that finishes this short movement and takes us directly into the passionate Intermezzo.
The Intermezzo played with a fullness of sound but a great sense of balance that never lost sight of the melodic line so similar to one of Schumann’s own Novelettes op 21.The eight Novelettes after all were written only shortly before this work which is op 26.
Even there op 21 n.8 is in the obscure key of F sharp minor as here it is in E flat minor as though this is music that sorts the men from the boys!
The Finale was thrown off with all the rhythmic energy and virtuosity that Schumann demands.
There could have been slightly more contrast between the lyrical song like passages, maybe a lighter orchestration and slightly more time to breathe.
However this is a small price to pay for a performance that drew us in and kept our attention from the first to last note.
The three Debussy Preludes with which Konstantinos Destounis opened the concert were played with all the light and shade that allowed them to speak so eloquently.
Les collines d’Anacapri had all the subtle colours that are so apparant to anyone who has caught the funivia to this magic spot in the bay of Naples.
Some very refined playing wherethe ending for the first time seemed to make such sense without hitting out the last rays of sunshine which is so often the case in lesser hands.
The Girl with the flaxen hair was played simply with beautiful tone as Debussy obviously intended for this simple lass.
Feux d’artifice showed of all Konstantinos’s quite considerable technical baggage.The final glissando leaving exactly the air smelling of fireworks on which floated in the distance the french anthem.
This led the way for a virtuoso account of that old war horse that is Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz n.1.
Here is was given a very clear account played with great taste and never allowing the great virtuoso feats to outway Liszt’s musical intentions.
The occasional added bass notes only opened up the piano sound even more just as Rubinstein used to do in public.
Margherite was given all the time to sing and seduce in a beautiful interlude before the partying took over with quite overwhelming sweeps of sound.
The trecherous octaves were very clearly played and the double octaves at the end took our breath away as Liszt obviously intended.
Hats off to Canan Maxton and her Talent Unlimited that aims to give a stage to young artists on their long and difficult jouney in music.
Young artists who are dedicating their youth to perfecting their art ……..not enough is ever said about that.
It is refreshing to be reminded though.