With her striking long, tightly curled hair cascading down her back, one might have expected pianist Ida Pelliccioli to specialise in dramatic, ostentatious repertoire that gave plenty of opportunity for her hair to provide a theatrical accompaniment to the music being performed. However, on an intimate night at the Acorn Centre in Inverurie, we were treated to an evening much more introspective and introverted with a programme that looked backwards, forwards and perhaps most importantly, inwards from a diverse selection of composers and their pieces.
Although the concert was ostensibly themed around introspection, there was a second theme of late and early works from the featured composers – a fascinating dive into some of the less know pieces from very well-known composers. The concert began with the Six Impromptus by Sibelius, not a composer often associated with the piano, but one responsible for an important contribution to the repertoire, nonetheless. This collection of short works traversed a wide range of emotions and colours in their relatively short duration, from the hymn-like first impromptu to the iridescent arpeggios of the fifth, all played with dynamism and poise from the pianist. Pelliccioli introduced each item with thought-provoking comments and was at ease with the audience and the venue on her first performance in Scotland. She followed the Sibelius with the autumnal sounds of Busoni’s arrangement of ‘Herzlich tut mich verlangen’ from Brahms’s Eleven Choral Preludes, originally written for organ. This late work by Brahms is a serene and stately piece, ebbing and flowing, but never reaching too far from its opening sonorities. Pelliccioli handled the intricate counterpoint with great skill, funnelling Busoni, Brahms and Lutheran church music through her fingers and the warm acoustic of the Acorn Centre. The first half of the concert was concluded with more Busoni, this time his heartfelt homage to Bach, the Fantasia after Johann Sebastian Bach from 1909. This deceptively difficult piece is hard to pin down, especially to uncover where Bach ends and Busoni begins, but Pelliccioli brought out all the sinuous lines and powerful climaxes with great aplomb.
The second half began with what was arguably the high point of the concert, Leoš Janáček’s In the Mists from 1912. This ‘misty’, impressionistic work which hints at Debussy is often seen as a representation of Janáček’s own mental health at the time, struggling as he was with rejection for his operatic work and still engulfed in grief from the death of his daughter. It is an insistent, contradictory work, but one that lingers long in the memory after the final chords. It was hard to know how Pelliccioli would follow this, but an early ‘Elegie’ from Morceaux de fantaisie (1892) by Rachmaninoff was as good a way as any! A soft and sombre work at times, but one that built to a powerful and emotional ending, all shaped in a precise and understanding way by the pianist.
The audience was then treated to two short encores, firstly a spritely ‘Tarantella’ (a dance associated with Pelliccioli’s homeland) by Prokofiev, then another intense offering from Rachmaninoff (from the Études-Tableaux) which brought the evening to a suitable conclusion. It was a great thrill to host this wonderful pianist’s first performance in Scotland, it is to be imagined, it won’t be the last.
@Phillip A Cooke