Virtuoso Piano Performance
Madison has many well-kept musical gems and one of them is the popular Farley’s House of Pianos Salon Concert Series. A salon is defined as: “a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation and art. ” They were a popular form of entertainment throughout the 17th-19th centuries in Europe. Fortunately, through organizations like Farley’s that tradition continues alive and well in the digital age and offers a more intimate look at an artist and his/her work than can be obtained in a large concert hall setting.
This past weekend’s concert featured the Russian pianist, Ilya Yakushev who has performed in the past with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and a previous salon recital. This time he presented a program of well-known and loved piano works, some more often heard these days as orchestral transcriptions, rather than original solo piano works. The first half opened with the Sonata in D Major by Haydn. Yakushev played it with fine “joie de vivre” and with a light playful touch, although a bit fast tempo wise. Below is a YouTube clip of him playing the first section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA1_fxpeEYU.
Next Yakushev performed Tchaikovsky’s Sentimental Waltz, chosen to lead into beloved Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin as the ending note leads into the famous glissando to the opening motif. Audience clapping after the waltz forced him to quickly stand and bow before continuing creating a bit of an interruption. However, Yakushev’s joy and playfulness shone through and he kept a light, nuanced touch to the virtuosic piece. Ever a storyteller, he told how Gershwin had been commissioned to write the piece for a jazz organization but put it out of his mind until he was reminded of it when he saw a concert promotional flyer. He managed to compose it in just 6 weeks and the rest is history.
The second half featured Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky. Again, he relayed the back story of the suite. Dedicated to a close friend, artist Victor Hartmann, after his sudden death, he based the work on an exhibition of his work that he organized in his memory. This took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, where Yakushev was also born and raised. Yakushev has performed the work with the paintings that inspired each piece projected, but alas, not today (hint: this would be a cool project for him to return for). However, you can listen to the original piano suite with each picture via: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Lq_JiBFweE. Yakushev played the suite with a bit more somber capturing the sentiment of the suite, but with a light touch throughout that kept the fuller sections from being too loud and overbearing. Given that this suite is generally performed transcribed for orchestra by Maurice Ravel, he did a magnificent job of bringing out the many layers and textures.
The enthusiastic crowd assembled wasn’t ready to end the concert just yet and Yakushev gave them a wonderful treat, ending with an exquisite encore of the Adagio from the Oboe Concerto in D minor by Alessandro Marcello. Transcribed by the great late pianist and composer, Earl Wild, his and Yakushev’s paths crossed and he was one of the first to obtain the score for this rare and gorgeous piece.
Farley’s has two more piano salon concerts scheduled for this season, but not until March and May of 2018. After hearing the first two concerts this season, I hope I can wait that long.