London-based Armenian pianist Seta Tanyel gave a masterclass at Government House Ballroom on Sunday, an exposition of technique and interpretation for the first outing of the Perth Recital Series.
Works from Scarlatti through Beethoven to Chopin brought progressively greater depth and demands as the piano evolved over 150 years of composition and performance.
Tanyel, a slight, unassuming figure, launched immediately into three Scarlatti sonatas. A full tone from the lightest of touch on the resident Fazioli grand had fanfare figures ringing clear and true around the stately venue for the E major K.380 work.
The E major K.531 sonata followed with renewed energy, fading to meditation, mixing and repeating, before the D minor K.141 sonata introduced a frenzied right hand then unleashed the left for a rousing conclusion in booming phrases.
The “Appassionata” sonata dawned in a delicate rubato breaking to characteristic Beethoven intensity with the meticulous touch of a teacher and artist who ascended the heights of her profession. By turns thoughtful and portentous, every note was played to its full nuance and expression with warmth and brilliance in equal measure.
The Andante second movement began in almost reverential tone, sustained phrases evoking an organ-like ambience before rising to brilliance then returning to the opening mood.
An intimate understanding of a favourite imparted fresh qualities and charm as the Allegro finale built inexorably through scintillating runs and plangent chords to a rousing conclusion.
The briefest pause allowed a reset to Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante, a rumbling left hand and sparkling right speaking of a mature Romantic muse. Again, it was familiar but with fresh appeal; longing expressed in delicate ornamentation of the high register echoed by warmth in the mid-range.
Like a sporting champion, Tanyel seemed to have all the time in the world and time itself faded into the background.
An infinitesimal pause gave way to drama in the transition before the jaunty rhythm of the Polonaise broke through, with variations in tempo fully exploited to draw maximum drama from each phrase.
Schumann allegedly referred to Chopin’s music as “cannon, buried in flowers” due to its nationalist sentiment; a thought echoed here in expressive firepower, though without discord. Explosive attack was delivered tunefully, subsiding to rhapsody then surging again in gorgeously Romantic flurries and flourishes, triumphant in the conclusion.
A Scarlatti C major sonata encore gave way to a well-earned interval before Tanyel returned with WA musicians Akiko Miyazawa (violin), Sally Boud (viola), Eve Silver (cello) and Jack Charles (double-bass) for Schubert’s ever-popular Trout Quintet.
Piano bubbled in the background as strings warmed to the Allegro vivace opening, violin duetting with piano as Tanyel maintained precision and verve amid the depth and harmonics of the quartet.
The Andante second stanza brought more warmth from Tanyel, reflected in all parts, especially through a viola-cello duet in minor mode with violin highlights and grounded bass.
The Scherzo: Presto third movement burst into life with piano driving powerfully as strings alternately followed and led; an amuse bouche before the Theme and Variations of the fourth.
The lilting theme, a staple of singing classes, broke first in strings, graceful and playful, before piano took up the strain as the quartet danced attendance in arpeggios, trills and walking bass.
Violin led out the variations, answered by piano then viola, each following the other like clockwork.
Exuberant and virtuosic piano took over, a perpetuum mobile breaking to high drama, repeated loud and soft.
Cello weaved its magic over mercurial piano and regular bass; violin answered in minor mode then returned to the theme over ripples in piano, fading at the close.
The Finale: Allegro giusto opened as a folkloric dance, strong in full ensemble before breaking to piano, then strings, then recombining. Rousing piano summoned more fireworks across the group then a return to the dance before firing again for a feisty conclusion.
The second of the Perth recital Series will feature pianists Anna Sleptsova and Tommy Seah with music by Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Skoryk, at a date and venue to be confirmed.