|Derek Butler Prize, Wigmore Hall, London|
|March 27, 2008|
March 27, 2008
The late Derek Butler, who made his fortune manufacturing Nigerian headdresses, is posthumously supporting a huge array of ventures, including the musical prize that bears his name. Now in its second year, it goes to the best postgrad candidate fielded by London's four conservatoires, with a Wigmore Hall concert as the play-off.
If one of this year's four has some way to go, the other three, on the basis of these performances, should each make a debut disc forthwith. The 24-year-old Alissa Tavdidishvili Turgeneva hails from that cradle of great pianism, Tbilisi, and she produced a muscular cantabile in the old Soviet style. But by applying it in turn to works by Scarlatti, Chopin, Rachmaninov, and Scriabin, her strange achievement was to make them all inhabit the same sound-world, a limitation she must urgently address.
No praise can be too high, however, for the American cellist Bartholomew LaFollette, the Russian violinist Dunja Lavrova, and the extraordinary Serbian accordionist Milos Milivojevic, who finally scooped the pool.
LaFollette opened with pellucid Fauré, followed by a toweringly authoritative unaccompanied Bach prelude. His rendering of Tchaikovsky's Pezzo capriccioso moved from a quintessentially Russian expressiveness to an assured virtuosity few top-flight cellists could have matched.
Lavrova opened with a much-played Brahms movement whose Romanticism demands power and control – the very qualities she brought to it. Her second piece was a pseudo-baroque pastiche by Huw Watkins, and her last was Ravel's Tzigane, in which she proved herself on a level with the great fiddlers of the past.
But Milivojevic's artistry on the humble button accordion took the breath away – indeed, his coruscating transcription of an organ chorale by Mendelssohn made one almost wonder whether we actually need those thundering giants. I'd put money on this brilliant young performer opening a whole range of new musical worlds.
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