‘Feel the Magic of Viola Classics’ featuring violist Stephanie Pavia Watt (UK) and Gozo-based foreign pianist Milica Lawrence in a recital of music by various composers took place on Sunday 5 June 2022 at the Exhibition Hall, Ministry for Gozo. The programme on offer was indeed a vibrant one and was undoubtedly a testimonial to the excellent musicianship of the duo.
Amongst the works performed during this recital was Ernst Bloch’s powerful ‘Suite Hébraïque’, an artful and engaging synthesis of Jewish themes with multiple musical influences, typical of Bloch’s mature style. Marvellously performe, this ‘’cavallo di battaglia’ served to demonstrate a far wider stylistic perspective. Inevitably, Jewish-inflected cantorial writing is very much present in the ‘Rapsodie’ movement as well as in the ‘Processional’ and ‘Affirmation’. Pavia Watt’s sweet-toned and intense performance avoided overt histrionics while succeeding in bringing out a convincing sene of the arcane musical structure. Stephanie Pavia Watt was ably supported by Dr Milica Lawrence’s solid contribution.
David Francis Urrows ‘Ricordanze dell’Umbria’ for piano solo, composed in 1987, brought a complete contrast in mood. This is a charming work that engaged the audience fully.  It is a work that is indeed revealing of the mentorship of English composer Kenneth Leighton. Bold flashes of harmonic rhythm against pedal notes offered a colourful canvas of sonorities deigned to portray the Umbrian landscape with hints of Debussian-inspired parallel chordal writing coupled with intensely sonorous climaxes spread throughout the pianoforte’s entire registers. Pianist Milica Lawrence succeeded in taking the audience on a deeply felt musical description that is inherent in the work.
Johannes Brahms’ compositions for solo instrument and piano have featured as standards in chamber music literature ever since their composition. These works were written with specific performers in mind and Brahms worked closely with performers when refining the definite version. Brahms so loved the rich warm sound of the viola, that he created the viola alternative for the Clarinet Trio, so much so, that within days of sending the clarinet sonata, he sent in alternative parts of the viola to the publisher.
The Sonata op 120 in F Minor begins with an ‘Allegro Appassionato’ where all the subsequent ideas in the entire sonata can be traced to the opening section. The performance of this work was characterised with dramatic thrust, despite running regularly into soft sonic bumpers as the canonic coda resolves the key structure in the key of F Major. The middle movements present a ternary form structure. The ‘Andante un poco adagio’ was performed with the delicacy of an elegant nocturnal aria for the viola, with the piano getting its own turn with the embroidered melody. Similarly, its partner movement, ‘Allegretto Grazioso’ is a dance-inspired movement where idyllic charm and serenity were the main characteristics that informed this immaculate performance by Pavia Watt and Lawrence. The work concluded with the ‘Vivace’ romp in sonata-rondo form that brought the work to an exuberant conclusion where the appreciative audience justly granted a standing ovation to the duo.
This second offering of the Feel the Magic 2022-24 cycle continues to fulfil our mission in bringing high-brow international artists to grace our performing stage.
‘Feel the Magic’ is generously sponsored by Arts Council Malta – Investment in Cultural Organisations Programme, the Ministry for Gozo and Michael Grech Financial amongst other minor sponsors.


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