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  • Helen Gramotnev


Two incredible concerts at the beautiful Holy Trinity Hall put the piano in the spotlight at the Brisbane Music Festival. Beginning with the monumental Transcendental Etudes by Franz Liszt, performed by Roger Cui, the evening concluded with Nature Spirit – an uplifting recital of works inspired by nature and bird song, performed by the festival’s Artistic Director, Alex Raineri.

As is the norm with the Brisbane Music Festival, the performers create a truly personal experience for the audience. Short introductions to the pieces provide historical and musical context for the performed works, while the choice of music in each recital shows sensitivity to the needs of the Brisbane audiences.

Transcendental Etudes convey purity and innocence of the human being against the rise of the Age of Industrialism and the desire to hold on to nature so prevalent in Romanticism. Revised three times, Etudes are a staple of the piano repertoire today, although not often seen performed as a set. Roger Cui explains that the purpose of these etudes was to train the next generation of virtuoso pianists, and he certainly shows himself as a true virtuoso by giving a formidable performance of what is considered some of the hardest works in the piano repertoire! Masterfully, he juggles fire and sensitivity, power and fragility, and gives a performance that is both intelligent and passionate.

Nature Spirit provides a beautiful contrast to the demonic intensity of the first recital. It is comprised of 10 pieces composed or arranged for solo piano, evoking the infinite magnificence of the natural world. Masterfully curated by Alex Raineri, this recital brings together Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky with Paul McCartney, adding the contemporary Australian composers Corrina Bonshek and Connor D’Netto to the mix. Raineri’s ability to draw the audience into the performance makes this a very enjoyable experience: we always find out a little more about the pieces and the pianist than can be gauged just from the program notes. The cherry on top is the most ravishingly performed interpretation of The Lark (a Russian classic by Mikhail Glinka, arranged by Balakirev) that I have ever heard!

Do not miss the remaining concerts in the Brisbane Music Festival, the details of which can be found on their website.


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