It is appropriate that a new blog documenting my reactions to the most significant cultural events I attend should also record the initiative of the Latvian Embassy in London to establish a series of classical concerts. With the Embassy situated not a stone's throw away from the Royal Academy of Music, it felt entirely natural that Florian Mitrea, one of the most promising students in the Academy’s keyboard department, should give the debut recital upon the newly installed baby grand piano amongst surroundings that were suitably intimate and comfortable. The spirit of traditional salon concerts, with music before convivial conversation, lives on.
By opening his hour-long recital with Schumann’s Carnaval, Florian set himself a considerable challenge. The work’s popularity takes nothing away from the interpretive difficulties it poses for the player – should the sequence of character portraits be unified within an overall concept of the piece, or should their differences of mood and emotional force be left exposed? Florian’s response was very much the latter, evident from the outset with his daringly fast chosen tempo. Strength of feeling for the work permeated Florian’s playing throughout give a good sense that he understood the impulses that lie within Schumann’s writing. Occasionally, passions outbalanced cleanliness of execution, but in the work’s more Florestanesque fiery aspects this detracted only slightly.
Jazeps Vitols (1863-1948), though hardly a household name, commands a significant place among Latvian composers, having been a prominent composition professor at the Saint Petersburg Conservatoire and thereafter in Riga. His output is sizable and his piano works readily reflect a post-Lisztian train of thought, which Song of Waves, op 41, significantly illustrated. Florian Mitrea’s interpretation mixed Romantic largesse in his touch with a keenness for colourful sonority, deftly heightened through appropriate pedalling.
Moving from Latvian to Romanian repertoire for the remainder of the programme, Florian was at last in his element. The Bourrée from Enescu’s Second Piano Suite, op. 10, was eloquent in its fluency, mindful both of the Gallic feel inherent to the form and Enescu’s particular depth of tone at the keyboard. If Enescu’s music has become more widely played and recorded in recent years, Paul Constantinescu (1909-1963) remains all but unknown outside of Romania. Florian’s inclusion of two important solo piano works, Theme with variations and Dobrogean Dance, effectively made the case for a more thorough investigation of Constantinescu’s music. Theme with variations wore its heart on its sleeve, turning effortlessly from joy, to celebration in its dance-inspired elements to a very Romanian sense of dor (bitter-sweet sadness) at its close. The Dobrogean Dance followed almost without a break, full of life and energy.
The next concert on 28 April features music by Astor Piazzolla. Hopefully it will not be long before the music of Latvians Emils Darzins, noted for his songs, or Maija Einfelde, a contemporary composer with a sizable reputation for chamber music, reach a wider audience.
Photo credit: Serban Mestecaneanu