White Sceneries

Alessandro Stella - Piano music by Kancheli, Pärt, Sommacal and Vasks
The Capstone Theatre
December 3rd 2015

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Whiteout Night Out

On entering the grounds of the art campus in driving wind and rain, the cobalt blue twinkling of the Theatre's Christmas lights were a heartening beacon for those who had braved the elements for this evening's concert.

White Sceneries, a programme of post minimalist and 'simple' solo piano music for the prepossessing fingers of Italian Alessandro Stella, consisted of works from his two recent CD's The Chain Rules and Midwinter Spring. The impressively turned out musician, hair tied back in a pony tail and sporting a bright red tie brought a last hint of differentiated colour to proceedings as he strode onto the stage.

This was not a concert to get the senses racing; rather it turned out to be a soporific and transcendental journey through landscapes and sound spaces, internal and external. First up, Matteo Sommacal's The Chain Rules comprised three works each in three parts; Exile Upon Earth, The Rising Call and In A Silent Crowd. These reflected on the psychological abstraction of being alone in and part of a wider society at the same time. The composer was on hand in the thin crowd to take the applause at the end.

There followed a randomised selection of 16 Miniature reprises taken from Giya Kancheli's 33 themed 'Simple Music For Piano Songbook'; it was like a blanket of snow descending on the auditorium. This was another meditative journey from a Georgian composer. Well pleased with how Stella handles the nuances, tempos and ordering of each fragment, he was happy to say so in the programme notes.

Themes invoking King Lear, Waiting For Godot, the Caucasian Chalk Circle and Hamlet amongst others, came and went with the lack of complexity implied in the work's title. It was however an indulgent white chocolate confection of a sellection, with only a harsh discordant note(surely not a mistake), towards the end of Hamlet Theme No20.

As he went off to flex his fingers and get the blood flowing through his veins again the sedated audience waited, sensing Arvo Part's Fur Alina would lighten the silence. Indeed this first piece in the Estonian's 'tintinnabuli', (bell like chiming innovative style), was pleasing on the ear. As it developed the composer's use of differing harmonies, evolving repetitions and variations for either hand transcended the ether, before trailing away to eternity.

The transition to it's companion piece, Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinushka came and went unannounced and received no applause in the zen-like calmness.

The indication that the last work from Peteris Vasks, White Scenery (Winter) was to be played came when Stella, hunched like a praying mantis over the keyboard index fingers poised, launched off into soundscape evoking vast open spaces of peace and tranquility.

There was no encore and none was needed. The evening had been a stultifying attack to the senses, one delivered in a finely controlled and impeccably managed hour long performance for which the pianist could not be faulted.

Back outside in the bar a reviving drink was required before venturing out again into the wild weather.

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