A journey of music theatre which is based on her memoir, ‘Piano Lessons’
Novels, menus, paintings and recitals depend for their success, in part, on structure. For this recital the use of Anna Goldsworthy’s book “Piano Lessons” provided a simple but effective way of constructing a recital programme. In some ways it resembled an eight course dégustation menu! Above all, however, the whole programme thus constructed was a tribute to Anna’s outstandingly perceptive and talented piano teacher Eleonora Sivan with whom she studied from the age of nine.
The special qualities of Eleonora were revealed early in the afternoon when Anna read from her book. During a lesson Anna said “I’ve already learnt that Prelude – I finished it with my old teacher.” Eleonora replied “Bach is never finished. Life in this music is endless.” Anna then played us two Bach Minuets from the Anna Magdalena Notebook – probably in a much more sophisticated way than when she was just nine years old!
Anna continued reading and then played the first movement from Mozart Sonata K333 in B flat. This was very stylishly played and one wished that the whole sonata had been part of the programme. One of Eleonora’s comments on Mozart was: “ Mozart exactly like Midas – every sound he touches turns to gold.”
After appropriate excerpts from her book Anna went on to play a Chopin Berceuse and then Etude Op10 No 5 –an exceptionally difficult étude which was executed with speed and delicacy of touch. The pièce de resistance before the interval was Liszt’s Rigoletto Paraphrase. It is a tall order indeed to represent the characters of the opera as delineated by Eleonora –“ here we have opera, full story, with real characters. Rigoletto is basically a clown – how do you say – jester – and tragic figure really. And his daughter Gilda, completely innocent. Then we have the Duke, professional at seduction. We begin with philosophical introduction, from Liszt not from Verdi”. This was a stunning and technically brilliant performance with many of the characters clearly recognisable.
After the interval The Prelude and Fugue in C sharp Major was a welcome return to Bach. The prelude was played with vitality and dexterity. The articulation of the fugue subject was in clear contrast to the legato countersubject and the attractive and cleverly constructed episodes added to the interest of the piece.
Beethoven, regarded by Eleonora as “greatest musician”, was well represented in the programme by a powerful performance of the first movement of the Waldstein Sonata Op 53 –a tour de force by anyone’s standards.
The most impressive part of the recital in my view was the wonderfully sensitive playing of the calm middle section of the Chopin Marche Funèbre from Sonata No 2 in B flat. Anna recalled playing this music after she had visited Eleonora who was seriously ill in hospital and it clearly holds many memories for her. The Chopin Nocturne Op 27 No 2 in D flat which followed was a fitting finale for the afternoon.
Overall the blend of readings and music was successful. We were privileged to be allowed a glimpse into Anna’s early life as a musician and to hear some of her favourite pieces studied during that time. I left the church thinking how incredibly lucky Anna Goldsworthy has been to have had such an inspired teacher to develop her considerable talent over many years.