I spend a great deal of time and effort researching potential musicians to invite to perform at Breinton. We organise only seven soirees in a season after all, limiting the number of musicians I can engage, so naturally I get quite serious and cautious about selecting them, right? I google, youtube, and listen to CDs a lot, however my favourite method, needless to say, is to go to concerts and listen to musicians in a live environment. And this was the way that I encountered violinist Joo Yeon Sir and pianist Irina Andrievsky, at St Martin in the Fields in London in January 2015. Last night, the duo gave a concert of such pleasure in which we treasured every moment. Sensationally enjoyable!
Once I decide to invite a musician, I am not fussy about their programme. I would like them to perform what they want and are most comfortable to play. The programme Joo Yeon Sir had given me was unique, somewhat unusual, and out of a traditional box set. Schnittke, Britten, Karl Jenkins, Stravinsky and Frolov? I can imagine the artistic directors of some music societies would be requesting a change! At Breinton it worked a magic.
In one of my previous reviews I said something like “highly sought-after musicians bring their own persona and character to the stage together with their execution of the performance”. This duo reminded me of this. Joo Yeon, with an angelic smile, created delicately sweet and warm sounds but pleasantly surprised me with her boldness. Irina, with an engaging posture as if she wanted to be a part of the piano, had a skillful touch on the keyboard made making the most beautiful sounds. She certainly made our Yamaha sing! The duo blended so well – between them the music and time flowed naturally. What’s more, their happiness and joy of performing was pouring out, which is one thing we would like to see in every musician.
Listening to them, a comment made by the adjudicator of this year’s Woking Young Musician of the Year came to my mind also. He said to the young competitors, “the hours, days, months and years of practice is to achieve ultimately one goal, which is how you project your music to the audience”. This was precisely what Joo Yeon and Irina were achieving. They performed and expressed their heart out, and it was received by the audience with open arms.
Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style is a lovely set of picturesque and nostalgic pieces that make my insides tingle every time. Joo Yeon performed in such a story-telling way, which produced a profound sense of each scene. Their glorious sound-making filled the room with a perfect volume. Their interpretation was sincere without being over-sentimental.
After the selected pieces from Benjamin Britten’s Suite, two very contrasting works by Sir Karl Jenkins were the emotional highlight to finish the first half. Lament for the Valley from Cantata Memoria was a significant piece; composed to commemorate the Aberfan tragedy where so many innocent lives were lost. It was soul-shaking; the emotions were conveyed through her very engaged vibratos, the sorrow through the deep-sounding low register notes, and the cry echoed through the high notes with pizzicatos. What went through everyone’s mind I will never know, but we were certainly gripped by the piece. The audience were absolutely silent; you could have heard a pin drop (and the room is carpeted!). Such a contrast was Chatterbox! What a fun piece; Sir Karl Jenkins acutely captured the image of women (?) chattering relentlessly, and perhaps even men covering their ears! Sir Karl, who wrote Chatterbox! especially for Joo Yeon, and attended the recital, was questioned relentlessly by our members about this piece during the interval refreshments.
Stravinsky’s Divertimento was fantastic. Joo Yeon’s care with the details reached every inch and once again her superb sound making did not show any rough edges. It was highly imaginative too; for instance, in Pas de deux I enjoyed imagining two dancers, one flirting and seductive and the other trying to catch her attention, trying to move closer and reach her from every angle.
Frolov’s Concert Fantasy was a great show piece to wrap up the very involving evening of many scenery changes with its familiar themes from Porgy and Bess.
How could anyone guess that a programme heavily inclined towards contemporary music would be so enjoyable? Joo Yeon and Irina communicated and connected with the audience by projecting their music straight to us, through a beautiful duoship, and with their carefully chosen and gorgeous quality of sounds.