From the moment she stepped in, Alexandra Dariescu captivated the audience. This Romanian pianist possessed a magnetic factor which grabbed everyone's attention and did not let go of it. Her convincing performance, backed by her technical skills, careful interpretation and affectionate presentation, brought a joyful evening to Breinton. Her informative explanations in between the pieces added extra pleasure.
Her generous programme, with each half lasting 45 minutes, was diverse and exciting, comprising four works by Schumann, Scarlatti, Beethoven and Chopin.
In all the pieces, Alexandra's playing was rich with expression. Beethoven's Sonata No. 6, one of his early Sonatas, was fresh and light compared to some of his heavy-hearted later compositions. We saw many colours and faces in this short Sonata; sweetness, bitterness, elegance, firmness and subtleness. It rejoiced our heart and brought a smile to our faces (as intended by Alexandra).
Scarlatti's Sonata had exceptional beauty. To my mind, this simple five-minute piece, popped in between the bigger works of Beethoven and Schuman, was unbeatable. The haunting melody was magnificently expressed while the notes were effectively sustained with controlled pedalling. Stunning!
Schumann's Fantasietucke followed. In her preceding introduction to this piece, Alexandra said that the composer had dual personalities – two sides to himself – a dreamy side and a passionate side. These two characters were fully expressed and heard in her playing, which had exceptional powers of imagination. Des Abends (In the Evening) was a wonderfully romantic introduction to the pieces that followed. Aufschwung (Soaring) had a real soaring sensation. It was passionate and powerful, but well controlled and never lost the feel of elegance. In der Nacht (In the Night) was dramatic, reaching the climax of the set. Fabel (Fable) had some stunning phrasing and gave us a real sense of story-telling. The almost comical Traumes Wirren (Dreams Confusions) was lovely.
Chopin's 24 Preludes came after the interval food and drinks. Alexandra said that they were not like typical preludes that precede longer works, but they were preludes to poems. Sure enough, she took a very poetic and romantic approach to them. The whole succession of the preludes flowed beautifully but I had overwhelming emotional surge from No 4 Largo leading up to No 8 Molto agigato. Then, No. 15 Raindrop was gorgeous – one of the best performances of this popular piece I've ever heard. Her sounds were pleasantly deep and powerful throughout (which she produced using the weight of her arms and which was therefore very natural).
Of course, our overjoyed audience would not stop clapping until Alexandra returned for an encore: Bacchanale by the Romanian composer Constantin Silvestri. This short piece about the god of wine and partying left us in a festive mood, indeed to celebrate the rare talent of this fabulous pianist.
Breinton is now experiencing a beautiful season. With birds twittering in the background we have the privilege of superb music with nature, something you can never expect in concert halls!