A review by Bill Windsor

of the April 10, 2007 IBLA Gala Concert


The Ibla Foundation of New York presented the 2006 IBLA International Grand Prize Competition Winners in concert on Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - 6 PM at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, 154 West 57th Street in Manhattan.


The Ibla Foundation in New York City organizes an annual music competition for pianists, singers, instrumentalists and composers which takes place during the last week of June and the first week of July in Ragusa Ibla, in the southeastern corner of Sicily. Winners are presented the following year in such venues as Carnegie Hall in New York, Tokyo Opera City Hall and other prestigious venues in Canada, Europe, Russia and the USA.


I have had the pleasure of hearing these winners for several year now, and I am still impressed by their talent and professional playing.


Weill Hall was crowded with an interesting audience including many young people along with some of the most notable representatives of the New York City circle of classical music supporters, philanthropists and socialites. I also noticed International Television crews in attendance.


The concert commenced at 6:05 pm and was introduced by pianist Salvatore Moltisanti.


The first musician on stage was Konstantin Soukhovetsky, whom Dr. Moltisanti introduced as the young past IBLA  winner (1993) and now a professional pianist performing throughout the world. He had just returned from a tour in South Africa where he received great acclaim. Dr. Moltisanti noted the IBLA Foundation had presented this young man as a boy from Russia in a 1993 concert for the President of Italy, Mr. Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. Mr. Soukhovetsky performed Wagner-Liszt’s Isolde’s Liebestod with  a strong sense of architecture, solemnly and with beautiful tone-coloring. A fantastic, illuminating tone and sonorous basses shined through his playing as well as a demonstration of how to connect phrases almost effortlessly. He demonstrates technical skills, and also an incredible feeling for rhythm and excitement. Tempo mannerisms are still everywhere: at times you'd wish he would just keep it straight for a few seconds; However it was impressive. Bravo!


Composer Roberto Scarcella Perino followed performing his own composition, Basket-Dance for piano and whistle. The music resembled somehow the bouncing of a basket ball through well divided arpeggios, chords and syncopations. A skilled pianist could have delivered a better rendition of Mr. Scarcella Perino’s music.

The next performer was Klara Min, whom I had also heard the previous evening at New York University, with the Etude in F minor by Franz Liszt. >>>.......

The other work on the program was the Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints which emanated a haunting beauty. The performer Kelsey Tamayo accompanied at the piano by her own mother, Mrs. Tamayo, demonstrate impressive talent and technique on a marimba and xylophone. Ms. Tamayo, a ‘military brat’ from Kansas (apparently both her parents are or have been on active military duty) dressed in a Japanese dress with gentle flowers on her head. Bravo to both!


Indonesian pianist Janice Carissa (8 years old) performed Jamaican Fumble composed by Sonny Chua, a Malaysian composer who resides and teaches in Melbourne, Australia. She performed the piece with a lot of humor and swing: this was a great way to unclutter your mind! The light spirit was very well captured. This young girl is a treasure trove overall, very talented pianistically and musically! Bravo!


Soon after young Indonesian pianist, Ryan Ferguson (11 years old) followed up performing an Etude by Russian composer Nikolai Kapustin with absolutely lovely tone. There certainly is a certain smoothness to his sound that makes his playing exquisite. Bravo!


Another young Indonesian pianist Regina Adelya Tanujaya performed Fragment by contemporary Indonesian composer Jaya Suprana. It is based on an interesting ethnic theme with continuous and sometimes odd variations, almost improvisations. She sounded definitely at ease in this contemporary composition. Bravo!


Violinist Lukasz Lagun Kuzminski and piano accompanist Alessio Quaresima performed Nigun from Baal Shem by Ernest Bloch. This wonderful, heart warming work was well served by the violinist’s lyrical singing lines, with excellent support from the piano accompanist. The Hebraic Baal Shem is one of Bloch's most often heard works and here it was done with great folk flavor. Mr. Lagun Kuzminski takes some liberty with the specific tempi, but his lyricism captures the essence of the music. Bravo!


Tatiana Nikitina’s performance of Polka by Sergei Rachmaninoff was a real jewel. Her rendition of this beautiful piano piece was extraordinary. She opted for a much more intense and meditative attitude along  with powerful, elegant and romantic display. Bravo!


Another Russian pianist followed: Liudmila Dukhan with a selection from the 16 Waltzs op. 39 by Johannes Brahms. Ms. Dukhan has captured the essence of Brahms, perhaps his musical soul, in a metaphysical sense. Not many pianists are capable of it. I was amazed at just how fresh and incredibly musical her performance was. Her piano playing lyrically brooding with a wistful quality goes right to the heart. Bravo!


Jazz singer Ivonne Atmojo, accompanying herself at the piano in a performance of

‘You’ll Have to Swing It ( Mr. Paganini)’ by Sam Coslow, turned the room into a smoky jazz club. She made the lyrics come alive and played her voice as if it was a real instrument combining exquisite elegance with her personal, jazzy phrasing and sinuous tone. It just felt authentic as if she was singing from the depth of her soul. Bravo!


The South African Piano Duo Laura Pauna and Cara Hesse performed selections from Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole. The Rhapsodie comprises four parts:Prelude à la nuit: très modéré, Malaguena: assez vif; Habanera: assez lent et d'un rythme las; Feria: assez animé. The previous evening Ms. Pauna and Ms. Hesse had performed Feria at New York University Casa Italiana. A feria (Latin for "free day") was a day on which the people were not obliged to work, and on which there were no court sessions. At Carnegie they performed the first and second section. Rapsodie espagnole (alternatively spelt 'Rhapsodie') is an orchestral rhapsody written by Maurice Ravel between 1907 and 1908 and represents one of Ravel's first major works for orchestra. The Rapsodie reflects the profound influence of the Spanish musical heritage that was imparted to Ravel by his Basque mother. As a child, Ravel would listen to his mother sing him folk songs from her country. Later works by Ravel such as Bolero and the opera L'heure espagnole also claim similar sources of inspiration.  It was simply lavishly performed, with winds and brass coming out of a piano along with plenty of percussion. The Feria, a high-spirited holiday scene celebration, is at one point interrupted with a languorous interval. Laura and Cara were able to perform this section soft as suede, with a clear presentation of the English horn and solo clarinet, followed by the four-note motif from movement one, before resuming the merriment with even more enthusiasm, frenziedly and brilliantly. Bravo to both!

Dr. Moltisanti, he himself a former Bartok Competition 1991 First Prize winner, indicated a brief story of the recent IBLA Foundation relation with the Radford University Kabalevsky - Bartok – Prokofiev Competition. He then proceded to introduce  pianist Macieji Granat. Mr. Granat performed the last movement of the Second Sonata (1945) by Dmitri Kabalevsky. The craftsmanship and idiomatic piano writing of this rarely heard  work are admirable. This is very likely  Kabalevsky's most ambitious solo piano work; its reliance on Prokofiev's Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sonatas is plain to hear, as is the melancholy tone. If anyone needs a sharp reminder of Kabalevsky’s greatness, then this is it. Mr. Granat  showed such a teasing and skilled mastery of tone in his tantalizingly biting and acerbic approach, when not suave and luxuriant. Mr. Granat makes Kabalevsky sound so indelibly Russian rather than frivolous. He casts an aura of rare distinction over it. Certainly the colour and hyper-virtuosity make the finale irresistible with a nonchalance and demonism that Mr. Granat commanded very well. Bravo!

A highlight of the evening was the premiere performance of Ibla Antica by Italian composer, Marcello Abbado, who was in attendance. This premiere performance was dedicated to the memory of Angela Boone, a former IBLA Foundation member.
Pianists Salvatore Moltisanti and Chie Sato Roden have such considerable experience that it is not surprising that they are poised, assured players with solid technique. Mr. Abbado's tough, angular variations on a theme based on an interesting musical series was rendered  with clear yet dense contrapuntal textures. There was emotional edge in their playing along with energy and continuous singing. They delivered with virtuosistic and flourish flair the fugato development form of the piece. Moltisanti's and Roden’s playing is so beautiful and poetic that it could win some new converts to contemporary music. They have a gift for song. Their rendition of this beautiful piano piece is extraordinary. Theirs was an excursion into a sound-world that seems phantasmagorical, other-worldly, wondrous, an ethereal experience. At the end, the composer himself, Marcello Abbado walked on stage and was very moved by the quality of this premiere performance. Bravo!


Singer Simona Rodano and piano accompanist Alessio Quaresima followed with a theatrical rendition of La Vie En Rose by Louiguy, Over the rainbow by Harburg/Harlen, Volare by Modugno/Migliacci and Come Fly With Me by Cahn/Van Heusen. Ms. Rodano is an experienced singer whose talent and exotic voice has led to more appearances with the IBLA Foundation. I recall her performing on the same stage last year. She manifests great versatility while displaying her charismatic and bewitching acting abilities. She performed in various languages and transformed herself into three different personas by sudden and skillful costume changes. Bravo!


I was quite disappointed by the performance of Matthijs Koene, panpipes and Stefan Gerritson, guitar, a duo from the Netherlands. I heard them perform at New York University the previous evening and now at Carnegie Weill Hall. Mr. Koene, technically is a good panpipes performer. Mr. Gerritson, guitarist, not as talented. I heard them perform music by Astor Piazzolla, the brilliant iconoclast composer, a master that brought music to new heights. Mr. Piazzolla blended erudite music with classical and jazz influences, without following the European musical traditions and making use of the technical constellation of the music of Argentina. The resulting tension between the European formation and the root of his own music  is transformed in esthetic identity. Thus, a new music is born, elaborated and passionate, made by a new mix and without eclecticism. Astor Piazzolla, a cult figure for classical and jazz lovers worldwide, dared to revitalize music, to hear in the music the possibilities that others could not or would not imagine. All this was missed and never materialized in the performances of Matthijs Koene and Stefan Gerritson. I encourage people to listen more to music by Piazzolla, but surely not from this duo.


Soprano Lisa Charles, mezzo-soprano Charlotte Paulsen and pianist Alessio Quaresima performed a duet from the opera Maruzza of Pietro Floridia. Maruzza explores every nuance of what it means to be human, every emotion, every question. The drama is well built and the religious underpinning with its hopes and damned conditions is present at all times. San Giorgio and the Madonna seem not to be able to bring any comfort to Maruzza and soprano Lisa Charles gives a good rendition of the predicament that  no positive outcome may come to her condition. They both are experienced singers whose talent and voices seem to offer good versatility. Lisa Charles is to be commended  for displaying her acting abilities while supported by the deep and full colored tone of Charlotte Paulsen’s voice. Mr. Quaresima accompanied well. Bravo to all!

The closing piece for the evening was a selection of dances from the Rite of the Spring by Igor Stravinsky performed by the young Italian Piano Duo Francesco and Vincenzo DeStefano. Very talented pianists, twin brothers Vincenzo and Francesco did not seem to be able to project anything beyond the dazzling speed and miraculous fluency of their technique. None of Stravinsky’s rugged, insightful, foreshadowing colors were displayed. These are still very young pianists and more can be expected from them in the future.

A well deserved standing ovation welcomed all of the performers on stage for a final salute!

The 2007 Competition is scheduled to take place from June 28 to July 8 in the magnificent baroque quarters of Ragusa Ibla.

Visit the Foundation online at http://www.ibla.org