Thursday, September 28

Piano Matinee: From Classical to Contemporary – St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh

Set in Scotland oldest purpose built concert hall, a handsome oval shaped room with an ornate skylight, dating from 1763, Russian-born pianist and composer, Olga Riazantceva-Schwarz, treated us to a varied exciting programme of piano recital.

Kicking off with Debussy and Beethoven, played from heart, the award-winning pianist plays with extraordinary virtuosity and delivers a brilliant and moving interpretation of the sonatas.

As a special feature, Olga Riazantceva-Schwarz then introduces us to Swiss composer Jean Paul Liardet, which she recently recorded. This concert is part of the album release tour and this is the Scottish Premier. The double-CD album contains a total of six piano sonatas composed by JP Liardet between 1971 and 2020.

In halting English, Schwarz explains, Liardet’s work can seem ‘a little crazy’, with influences ranging as wide as Chopin, jazz, ragtime and other experimental styles but to her it sounds ‘very special’.

Piano sonata No 5 (2016) is certainly a work full of emotion: passionate moments followed by calm. Dark and awkward and discordant and haunting. You can hear a mixture of revolt, anger and provocation, suddenly released into gentleness and comfort in the slow movements of their exhaustion.

Schwarz looks at one with the music, as a skilled rock climber might move effortlessly over a vertical wall, she dances and swirls over the keys without error or effort. It is a beautiful thing to see.

Liardet’s work is shockingly original, but too dark for me to really enjoy it, in it I can only feel pain and hurt and disappointment. It is almost a relief when Schwarz finishes and ends the programme with two pieces of her own, light and full of joy and hope. The first ‘Vorahnung’ (2017) makes me feel that it is about the birth of a child in its haltering first steps, and of the joy of discovery of a new life. The second, ‘ Toccata’ (2013), is more strident and confident and ceremonial, celebrating perhaps her once mighty Russian motherland.

Who knows? But is that not the joy of art in all its different forms that it is our interpretation of it that counts, and that makes it so very special.

Unfortunately, this was a single performance only. Schwarz has finished her climb up the scales today and survived the ascent, it was my pleasure to hear and see it.

Running time – 1Hr 30mins

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 5th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.