presented by Chamber Music New Zealand
Saturday 15 June 2019, Renouf Foyer,
Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
Francesco Turrisi : piano
A personal opinion from Stephen Gibbs
tldr – the short story:
Francesco Turrisi blends Early Western music with Arabic influences, Baroque with Jazz, solid formal structures with a free expression of melody and rhythm contours. His melodic fluidity and the rhythmic drive was outstanding – the notes effortlessly flowed out with a pure and sheer delight of being voiced. This concert was considered and refined, elegant and engaging.
The long story:
[ The concert was started by a young quartet – a pre-concert-concert. ‘Sixteen Strings‘ are the Overall Winner of the Wellington District Round of the NZCT Chamber Music Contest 2019. See below for details….]
Chamber Music New Zealand and Francesco Turrisi decided that the big auditorium at the Michael Fowler Centre would ‘swallow’ this presentation – too austere and removed. So they decided to place the concert in the Renouf Foyer – a more intimate and informal setting that was more suitable for this performance. It was a good move. A ‘U’ shaped block of comfortable seats surrounded the piano podium, and tables, chairs and an imitation ‘candle’ light graced the other areas in the hall. It was almost a ‘club’ setting, as Francesco remarked.
The relative informal nature of the setting made it easy for Francesco to relate to the audience. His easy and gregarious nature – and his humour – was greatly appreciated. But there was no doubt about his talent. The melodic fluidity and the rhythmic drive was outstanding. The notes effortlessly flowed out with a pure and sheer delight of being voiced – it was like his instrument was a part of his own corporeality.
I noted that the marketing image for this concert was remarkably different for the other concerts – not a photograph, but an impressionistic, painted portrait of the artist. [See above. By the way, the artist is one of CMNZ staff members: Darcy Woods, Senior Designer.]
I think this image was absolutely and aesthetically apt. There was an element of nebulousness and musically amorphous shape to this concert.
Someone in the press characterised Francesco as a ‘musical alchemist’. I wish it was me, for it was an accurate description of his artistry. He blends Early Western music with Arabic influences, Baroque with Jazz, solid formal structures with a free expression of melody and rhythm contours. In the first few bars of his first piece – Toccata – there were musical elements of Corelli, Bach, Albeniz and Chick Corea!
Most of his compositions developed organically with melodic phrases that were altered by minimalistic tonal or rhythmic variations. He used Early Music device of ground bass, passacaglia and ostinati with an aroma of Arabic and jazz sensitivity. Most of the pieces had a repeated left hand riff so the right hand could ornament extravagantly with acciaccaturas, appoggiaturas, curlicue phrases and florid flourishes. It was amazing that three or four chords could evolve into a satisfying and charming composition. And most of his performed pieces were paired compositions: one piece developed organically to another piece. Alchemy!
I enjoyed his performance immensely, but his last three pieces were a highlight: Northern Migrations was an hypnotic piece of arpeggiontic wandering melody reaching a tension climax and releasing to waves of sound; A Thousand Tears Old & Passacalio – a lament dedicated to his father; and Taksim & 11teen – and Arabic-inspired modal improvisation that developed to an 7/8 piece dedicated to his daughter.
This was not an avant-garde concert – no playing inside the piano, or mallets, or prepared strings, or hammering or tonal blocks. It was not angry, inflamed or outraged. It was ‘safe’ – considered and refined, elegant and engaging.
‘Sixteen Strings‘ – Overall Winner of the Wellington District Round of the NZCT Chamber Music Contest 2019.
Toloa Faraimo, Shanita Sungsuwan : violin
Peter Gjelsten : viola Emma Ravens : cello
Erwin Schulhoff: Fünf Stücke für Streichquartett (Five Pieces for String Quartet) – movements 2,3,4 & 5
If this is the standard of high-school musicianship, we have no worried about the future performers in this country. They were outstanding – very professional, polished, passionate, gutsy and very ‘together’. The balance was not ideal in the Serenade, but the jazzy Tango and the bustling, frenetic Tarantella were thrilling.