Although it officially opens tomorrow evening, Friday, September 28, the 2018 New Ross Piano Festival is already under way. It began yesterday, Wednesday, September 26, with its Young Pianists’ Concert when a fledgling group, ranging in age from seven to 17, tried out the Steinway grand at the festival’s base – the acoustically agreeable St Mary’s Church of Ireland.
Today has been taken over by jazz – this festival is nothing if not eclectic – with the Phil Ware Trio in St Mary’s this lunchtime and the Swedish virtuoso pianist and composer Lars Jansson, acclaimed for his improvisations, occupying the evening slot.
The festival, brainchild of internationally renowned artistic director Dr Finghin Collins [pictured] and aided and abetted by local luminaries, not least the redoubtable festival director Connie Tantrum, has been running successfully since 2006. Last year it found itself among the top ten European piano festivals listed by the UK music magazine The Pianist.
Over the years the astute Collins has brought an amazing body of pianists, and other instrumentalists, to Ireland for the first time and 2018 continues his enlightened approach to artists and programme planning.
This year, for example, brings the Irish debut of US artist of Irish ancestry Anne-Marie McDermott, described as “one of the great pianists of her generation”, and Romanian Alexandra Dariescu, “one of the 30 pianists under 30 destined for a spectacular career”.
Both appear tomorrow evening, Friday, September 28, with Ms McDermott choosing Bach’s 3rd English Suite and Ms Dariescu joining Bulgarian violinist Svetlin Roussev and French cellist Marc Coppey for Shostakovich’s Op 67 Piano Trio. Dr Collins rounds the evening off with Chopin’s 24 Preludes Op 28.
Collins opens Saturday’s evening concert with a short Debussy centenary tribute and then gives the première of John Buckley’s New Ross-commissioned Three Preludes. Anne-Marie McDermott and Alexandra Dariescu also return, this time with the former joining Messrs Svetlin and Coppey in Mendelssohn’s 2nd Piano Trio and the latter playing Beethoven’s Op 10/3 Sonata and Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise.
At Saturday’s late night concert Israeli David Greilsammer presents a fascinating programme he calls ‘Labyrinth’. This intermingles six of Janácek’s On an overgrown path pieces with music by CPE Bach, Mozart, French baroque composer Jean-Féry Rebel and the contemporary Haifa-born Montreal-based Ofer Pelz.
The 2018 festival closes on Sunday afternoon with Alexandra Dariescu in music by French composers Germaine Tailleferre and Olivier Messiaen; Anne-Marie McDermott in sonatas by Haydn and Prokofiev and Roussev, Coppey and Collins coming together for Schubert’s B flat Piano Trio.
In between there are a series of Coffee Concerts at noon tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday by Waterford’s Billy O’Brien, France’s François Dumont and Cuba’s Marcos Madrigal.
Billy O’Brien, who studied at the RIAM and in Paris where he was awarded a prix d’excellence at the Conservatoire, introduces his own programme of Chopin and Skriabin. Dumont, of whom it has been written “breathes music in every pore”, offers pieces by Bach, Liszt and Debussy’s Estampes while Havana-born Marcos Madrigal makes Skriabin’s 24 Preludes the focal point of his Sunday matinee.
Booking at St Michael’s Theatre, South Street, New Ross in person or by phone 051 421255 or at www.stmichaelsnewross.com