Sparkling wine glasses and scintillating Scarlatti in Naarden's Grote Kerk
The organized events spanned three separate evenings, and the atmosphere at the Grote Kerk was amazing.
Large round tables, starched white damask, a forest of wine glasses and a sea of candles insilver candelabras. Dimmed chandeliers glowing with golden light. A beautiful Steinway piano. The waiting staff harbors batteries of discretely uncorked wine bottles and the atmosphere is unusually animated. Your reviewer, dressed to kill, shuffles up alongside a table and is introduced to the Boltini circus family. They really know about theater, so the comments are flying around the table like trapeze artists. Scarlatti, a contemporary of Bach and Handel, wrote 555 sonatas for the harpsichord. Piano greats such as Rachmaninoff and Horowitz were only too happy to save a brilliant, virtuoso Scarlatti sonata as an encore or an opener for their recitals. And rightly so!
Scarlatti was born in Naples, but worked in Portugal and Madrid. The wine selection was made with this geography in mind. Each and every one of Scarlatti's sonatas, few of which last longer than a few minutes, is a unique gem and the pieces are often extremely original. Although the music is intended for the harpsichord, pianists and the aforementioned piano greats also achieve success with them.
American-Israeli pianist Pnina Becher dedicated for the time being entirely to Scarlatti. The charming program is testimony to that and is peppered with her extremely personal 'tasting notes' on both the wines and the sonatas. The sonata in G, K (Kirkpatrick) 427 "explores the highest and lowest Cs on the keyboard and has a thundering flamenco rhythm that identifies it as Rach-ma-ni-noff." The accompanying wine — an Oliver Conti d.o. Emporda España — has "a hint of pepper and a beautiful balance of mature and refreshing tones." In short, the music and the wine rise up as one; the wine noticeably "hangs" in the glass, which means it contains a lot of glycerin.
The 'tasting notes' for Becher's performance are not wrong. She has a feather light touch and an amazing left hand. She often plays legato (with notes linked smoothly together) — a striking approach for Scarlatti sonatas, with which you would expect more separate notes. Her thematic program selection is worthy of admiration, and she does everything possible in the explanations to make the compositions expressive.
We hear a few well-known sonatas, courtesy of Horowitz. A spicy Conde de Valdemar Reserva is accompanied by the beautiful sonata in D, K52, which sounds as familiar as a choral melody in this sacred space. As we drink a Tuscan Brachetto d'Acqui Rosa Regale from Castello Banfi, a quarrel began at my table as to whether the wine should be characterized as frizzante or spumante. The program uses the words 'delightfully spicy and fruitful.' That is certainly true of the Kattenfuga in g, K. 30, with which Becher concludes the recital. Two Chopin encores give me the opportunity to surreptitiously return to a Portuguese Doña Maria d.o. Alentejo that I find particularly full-bodied. Both the wine and the Chopin offered a "lasting aftertaste with elegantly smooth spiciness."
Writing music pieces for DeGooi- en Eemlander is no longer such a chore!
Tjako Fennema, October 2008
ArtsZine #28 - FESTIVAL WRAP UP: Music from the other end of the spectrum but with no less connection to the audiences in the hall - Pnina Becher. For those of you who didn’t realize she also went to perform in Shepparton, the word coming back from the concert there was that there were five ovations and she did curtain calls for each. What very experienced classical music audiences were so overwhelmed by was a combination of her technique, but more so the passion and intelligence. She seemed to have a direct channel on to Debussy, Chopin and Scarlotti (let alone the Goldberg Variations within her encores).
Artistic Director, Melbourne international arts festival
Bangkok’s Independent Paper, October 31, 2007: One of the perks of attending any multi-arts international festival is that you usually end up catching some performances that you didn't plan to see. Organisers of these events are aware of this fact and skilfully help things along by scheduling programmes that don't only complement one another but also allow paying audiences to attend more than one event of a different genre on the same evening, without suffering cultural overload.
Perhaps they want us to try something new and fresh - preventing theatre buffs, dance aficionados and music fans from pigeon holing themselves and helping them become true performing arts lovers instead.
My second day at the Melbourne International Arts Festival 2007 started with a call from the festival's publicist offering me a ticket to a classical recital by Israeli pianist Pnina Becher, who was making her Australian debut at 6pm. Although both she and I knew that I would be able to watch only the first half, as I had a ticket for the jazz concert by the Melbourne-based Dead Horse Band at 7pm, I gladly accepted the offer.
Walking through the bustling Federation Square, I found a quiet retreat at the multi-purpose venue called BMW Edge. I was surprised not to see any promotional cars, pretty presenters or the company's logo, and was even more amazed to discover a 450-seat hall with a crystalline web of glass interlaced with a steel and zinc framework. From most of the seats, the audience could also enjoy the sights of the Yarra River and the adjacent Alexandra Gardens during springtime twilight.
The pianist charmed the audience with her powerful renditions of timeless compositions, including Scarlatti's Sonatas and Chopin's "Nocturnes" and "Premiere Ballade". The experience was so enticing that I was reluctant to leave at the interval….