A selection of reviews by Irish Timescritics

Ivan Ilíc (piano)

NCH, John Field Room, Dublin

Brahms/Bach – Study on the Chaconne in D minor. Godowsky – 8 studies on Chopin’s Etudes.

Ivan Ilíc presented one of the most unusual piano recitals I have ever attended. Every piece was a virtuosic arrangement or recomposition of a recognised masterwork and, more surprisingly, was for the left hand alone. To make such a programme work requires playing that has something unusual – dazzling virtuosity perhaps.

However, one of the most striking aspects of Ilíc’s playing was his lack of interest in dazzling anyone, for this is a pianist whose musical intelligence naturally runs deep. He is a good communicator, in talking to the audience as well as in his playing.

For example, in his introduction to Brahms’s arrangement of the Chaconne from Bach’s D minor Partita BWV1016 for solo violin, he declared his admiration for Brahms’s fidelity to Bach’s original concept. This Brahms study for the left hand requires virtuosity; but that was not what most impressed this pair of ears.

More striking was the intelligent understanding and clear grading of part-progression. There was an imaginative view of large-scale design too: the subtly coloured and long-phrased shaping of the major-mode section was beautifully judged.

Ivan Ilíc said there was something superhuman about Godowsky’s studies on Chopin’s Etudes – almost too much for the listener as well as the player. For that reason he especially likes those written for the left hand only, which perforce restricted Godowsky to just three or four voices.

Ilíc did not wow you with virtuosity that was either deceptively easy or physically demonstrative, for this was virtuosity of the mind as much as of digital dexterity.

Parts were beautifully distinct and purposefully shaped, whether in the outright panache of No. 22 in C sharp minor, after Chopin’s “Revolutionary” Etude, or in the slow floridity of No 23 in A flat. This recital’s 45 minutes of music flew by. MARTIN ADAMS


Carnegie Arts Centre, Kenmare

A precious hour of sunshine preceded Carmina’s Kenmare gig, a fleeting reassurance of summer echoed later in their buoyant set list. Founding members, Rob King and Pippa Marland mine a seam of jazz/folk with robust traditional undertones that’s refreshing in its sense of adventure.

Reminiscent at times of Van Morrison during his Inarticulate Speech Of The Heartand No Guru, No Method, No Teacherphases, Carmina stretch and bend themselves around their mostly original repertoire with sinuous ease, driven by a keen magpie instinct for taking the best from disparate sources.

Their most recent CD, My Crescent City,provided the backbone of their gig, with Pippa Marland on lead vocals and saxophone.

Her vocals soared with unexpected confidence and abandon, a stronger and more compelling instrument in the live setting than on record.

King’s guitar accompaniment and songwriting contributions bring a sharp definition to Carmina, with the same tender loving care afforded to a musical gift to a friend’s newborn daughter, Mirella,as it was to the gorgeous Blessed Are The Broken, a perfect companion piece to Leonard Cohen’s Anthem: “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”

Accompanied by a stellar quartet on keyboards, sax, bodhrán and pipes (including Geoff Castle on keyboards and Brian Morrissey on percussion, low whistle and banjo), Carmina ventured into the foreboding terrain of I Am Stretched On Your Graveand ignited it anew with a bodhrán duel entirely bereft of the machismo that can transform this most subtle of percussion instruments into a leaden metronome in lesser hands.

Crucially, their lyrics challenge, particularly on Hungry Hill, an apt metaphor for the times we live in, as well as a soaring snapshot of Marland and King at their most inventive, melodically and lyrically.

At times, Geoff Castle’s synths lent too smooth a veneer, but his circuitous piano lines more than made up for it, while piper Diarmaid Moynihan’s reading of The Mountain Road, a postscript to Lord Franklinwas an object lesson in concise, uncluttered playing. Slingshots of beauty to be savoured when the lights came up. SIOBHÁN LONG