What we have here is
Tonya Lemoh's début concert complete. With the tension of
a live event - and such an important one - we also get occasional
shufflings and clearing of throats by the audience.
Lemoh’s Vallée d'Obermann
is unhurried and fashioned in the spirit of Pushkin
and Onegin. In this she is extremely successful though less,
so I fear, in Griffes’ White Peacock which is wanting in
mystery. Its languor seems too casual. By contrast the third
of Griffes’ Four Roman Sketches, The Fountain of the
Acqua Paola is more successful in florid Lisztian style.
Lemoh's coup in this
her first CD and her debut concert in public is the eight
movement suite by Niels Viggo Bentzon. This piece was performed
as an improvisation by Bentzon at Roskilde Cathedral in
the 1970s. John Damgaard acquired a recording of that event
and passed this to Tonya Lemoh and her husband the jazz
pianist Thomas Walburn who transcribed the work from tape.
Bentzon gave his blessing to the making of the transcription.
The resulting eight movement suite has a warmly monumental
clarity and in its pages we meet the sharply etched spirits
of Bach, Bartok and Debussy. There’s no room for the dissonance
of the Symphonic Variations (recently recorded on
ClassicO and reviewed on this site). Every page is fixed
with music of honest precision yet imbued with lively fantasy.
Shostakovich may also be invoked here and he certainly seems
a presence in the Courante and the final Gigue.
The Réjouissance flies with hectic wings borrowed
from Conlon Nancarrow. Lemoh is totally in command and the
music flows with great and natural force. Very impressive.
After what I found
a curiously uninvolving Chopin piano sonata things improved
multifold for Ginastera's Danzas Argentinas. The highlight
came in the shifting half-lights and mezzotints of the Danza
de la moza donosa with its insubstantial hints of tango,
smoke and La Valse. The evocation of black pattering
angst-driven rain in Danza del gaucho
matrero is really
striking and even more so in the final hustle-bustle which
draws on Cowell and Ornstein. Brilliantly done.
The envoi is the cool
and calming Bach-Busoni with just that romantic patina lent
by Busoni. This is the right piece to send the audience
out into the Aarhus streets
self-possessed and reflective.
Ms Lemoh is a doughty
and imaginative pianist and her approach to choice of music
is to be applauded and strongly encouraged. I hope we will
hear more from her in Ginastera, John Foulds (she would
be wonderful in April-England and the Essays in
the Modes), Ornstein, Cowell, Ronald Stevenson, Grainger,
Nancarrow, Shostakovich and of course more Bentzon. How
about the complete Bentzon piano concertos?
An auspicious if not
unmixed debut - outstanding in Bentzon, Liszt and Ginastera.