It is clear Irene Veneziano loves music rather than self-serving display (23-08-2011) – ENG

“I felt many of the same positive vibrations about Irene Veneziano’s playing as I did during the Chopin Competition. See for my notes on her.

The first half of her recital was devoted to Chopin. She carefully chose the Etude in C sharp-minor Op. 25 No.7  which is  a far more reflective and thoughtful piece than the majority of his etudes. She performed it with a refined touch, nuance and tone of great sensibility. The Scherzo in B flat-minor op. 31 was a musical and civilised interpretation that never bordered on the hysterical which is so common among young players today. She presented the music in all its extreme shifting moods and not simply as a vehicle for her own ego as a virtuoso pianist.

This is such a relief after being pounded into the ground this month by too many young pianists who use the music only as a platform to show off their lightning fingers and thunderous sound. Veneziano never does this and allows the music to speak for itself – presumably the music is what the audience have come for and not a circus act (and I will not mention the names of our well-known pianistic circus performers – you know them).

In the Polonaise in F sharp minor I noticed her very skillful pedalling, a feature of the entire concert. In Chopin she uses very relatively little pedal which is absolutely right to produce the sort of ‘classical clarity’ that he always desired to reveal his inspired counterpoint and inner voices. She rarely uses the ‘soft’ pedal except for colour when many use it to lazily reduce the dymnamics. The long section of repeated ‘miliary’ octaves in the left hand in this Polonaise can become intolerable, inflated and absurd if over-pedalled. On a Pleyel instrument of Chopin’s day the bass is not so dominant as on a modern instrument and consequently the repeated phrase on a Steinway must be under-pedalled and detached. She achieved this perfectly. Chopin himself once commented ‘The study of the pedal is a study for life.’It is vital in interpreting his music on today’s instruments.

The Ballade in G minor, op.23 remained a cohesive musical narrative that never became melodramatic – another unpleasant feature of so many performances of this work that strain for effect rather than musical expression. This exaggeration is very much a modern phenomenon and Veneziano is not a victim of it – neither is that superlative Swiss-Italian pianist Francesco Piemontese. I want to seduced by music not assaulted by it.

After the interval we moved onto El amor y la muerte, the fifth piece in theGoyescas cycle by Granados. Technically this is  a very difficult work and showed that Veneziano has all the power and digital dexterity needed for works that require it. She showed the relaxed improvisational feel and mastery of mood swings which this work requires. This being the Liszt year she then turned to the composer and chose a Schubert transcription he made of Standchen (Serenades) S. 560. Veneziano played it  ardently with very affecting poetry (a text from Shakespeare’sCymbeline) and such cultured elegance of touch and tone with the dynamics of the ‘echo phrases’ beautifully controlled. A beautiful atmosphere of sweet fading nostalgia was created that is so characteristic of Schubert. The final work in her concert was the Liszt Rapsodie espagnole S. 254. If anyone is in any doubt of her virtuosity and power when required then this performance displayed it. Fully of energy and fire, nobility and power – also the Spanish dance rhythms and the foliawere excellent.

She had thought about her encores and produced the music for a virtuoso arrangement (who made this arrangement I wonder?) of a popular Polish song by the nineteenth century Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko. She followed this by the terribly demanding and highly entertaining Etude Op. 111 ‘Toccata’  by Saint-Saens.

The communication this pianist has with the audience is always warm and affectionate. She always presents herself to the eye so elegantly too. It is clear Irene Veneziano loves music rather than self-serving display and brings a welcome breath of modesty, culture, charm, refinement, poetry and dare I say it, the sensibility of the feminine to her fine playing which we are desperately in need of in these days of  so much crude pianistic exhibitionism. Such qualities undoubtedly contribute to her fine qualities as a chamber musician in addition to being a soloist.”

Michael Moran  – Tuesday 23rd August 2011