Wolverton Hall is properly in the countryside but near enough to civilisation to make it easily accessible. The owners have made it a specialist concert venue accommodating around 60 souls in the informal setting of a cosy but splendid Jacobean-cum-Queen-Anne drawing room. Click here for details of upcoming concerts: http://wolverton-manor-concerts.co.uk
Tonight’s performer was the remarkable young Lithuanian pianist Martyna Jatkauskaite http://martynapiano.com. Introduced with evident fondness by our hosts, Ms Jatkauskaite treated us to a tour de force of pianistic prowess.
Artists of this calibre can be fragile souls, wont to fiddle with piano stools, sit for several seconds calming themselves, looking heavenward for inspiration and the like. Jatkauskaite is the polar opposite: an obvious devotee of the ‘let’s just get on with it’ school of performing, she launched without a second’s delay into the arresting opening chords of Prokofiev’s Sarcasms, Op 17. This wittily named suite contains some highly inventive themes and is not easy listening. Nevertheless it was tonight, in the hands of our artist, engaging, interesting music.
To describe Ms Jatkauskaite as a force of nature is to fail to do justice to her seriousness of purpose, almost intimidating presence and intensity as a performer. The glamorous persona depicted on her promotional materials is utterly not the person you encounter in the flesh. To me she seemed quite fearsome, like a Viking warrior or some kind of Marvel superhero, here to deploy her skill like a weapon to conquer rather than something to show off or struggle with. If victory was her intention, she succeeded, with a no-holds-barred exposition of full-on, take-it-or-leave-it, naked pianism.
Her second offering, Schubert’s Impromptus Op. 142, Nos.1,2,3 & 4, was delivered with all the raw commitment these unforgettable gems deserve. The term ‘Romantic’, as is often applied to Schubert, Chopin and their contemporaries, sometimes implies a kind of winsome otherworldliness full of delicate emotion. Nothing could be further from the truth as far as these composers are concerned. In the case of Schubert, his entrancing melodies are underpinned by visceral power-chords and complex chromatic variety. With Chopin, the breathtaking range of expression, musical refinement and depth in his works always appeals on many levels. These are natural materials for Jatkauskaite to mould in the furnace of her artistry. Her intensity of focus is, to use the word in its correct sense, awesome to behold. Coupled with total technical mastery, this means that the richness of the music can come out in full.
The interval, during which we partook of refreshments in the delightful kitchen area, gave me a chance to snap the venerable Bechstein that submitted to the evening’s ravishing by our pianist.
Part two of the concert consisted of Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, Op. 35. Again Ms Jatkauskaite launched with fiery vigour straight into the turbulent first movement. She proved here, as she had earlier with the Schubert, that she possesses the refined control necessary to render meaningfully the many-faceted emotional complexity of such a piece. The lovable melodies in both the first and second movements were tenderly given. Judicious pauses, rubato and full-spectrum dynamic control combined to give a satisfying delivery. Her Funeral March merged reflective sensitivity with properly meaty, crashing chords. Chopin’s enigmatic finale I must confess defeats my musical senses every time. She certainly seemed to know what she was saying with it however.
This might indeed sum up her performance and from what it showed, her personality as a performer: she knows exactly what she is going to say, she knows exactly how to say it and she means to say it powerfully and with total commitment. Watching her after the applause, listening to our host offering his thanks, the post-performance fire in her eyes was quite remarkable.
If you hear of her playing anywhere, my recommendation would be: do not hesitate to go.