November 7 2021
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
Vivid detail amid the fistfuls of notes
Giuseppe Guarrera is one of those young Italian men who manage to be (a) charismatic, even whilst admitting that it was (for him) rather early in the morning and (b) stylish, even though you can bet he hadn’t made any special effort. He hails from Sicily, although currently based in Berlin where he’s a member of the prestigious Barenboim-Said Academy. His Sunday piano recital certainly won the hearts of a large RCH audience.
He started with Robert Schumann’s Papillons, inspired by a literary love triangle: two rival brothers and the woman they both adore. The music evokes strong emotions, each short section a sharply etched miniature, capturing the two brothers, the woman, the dancing, their confessions of love…and the anger with which they leave the ballroom. The performance was a dazzling kaleidoscope of characters and moods, conjured up by playing of impressive, sensitive virtuosity.
Then came Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition. In his chat beforehand Giuseppe explained his approach to the work: not just musical impressions of the exhibits but a spiritual journey into the human soul. The evidence? Just listen to all those musical ideas drawn from Russian Orthodox chant. Convinced or not, the audience certainly responded to the way he created such vivid detail and managed to control all those fistfuls of notes. Despite the fact that the music has been arranged countless times, Giuseppe was surely right to say that it’s only in the original piano version that the music truly finds its voice and soul – nowhere more so than the haunting performance of the Catacombs movement.
His handling of the mighty concluding picture, The Great Gate of Kiev, brought a sizable part of the audience to their feet. There had to be an encore: the touching first movement of Schumann’s Kinderszenen did very nicely.
Giuseppe Guarrera playing in the Sunday Morning Piano Series at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall