The final Sunday of the New Ross Piano Festival, put the seal of quality on what is now a very fine and impressive event. Perhaps now the organisers will have to look at expanding out of the bijou St. Mary’s Church and there is a similar church just down the hill, that could make a unique two-venue festival. It would make for a picturesque attraction.
Sophie Cashell got the Sunday Coffee Concert off to a tentative start with some querulous Janacek, like a meditation or a memory piece. A sad melancholic death Adagio confirmed a mood at variance with balmy weather as the Janacek gathered into confusion and then a frenzy before fading into loss and defeat. A listz Ballade was full of ripples and then a turbulent storm, with rumblings of musical thunder, before Cashell showed great technical skill with a bitty Schumann Carnavel of over twenty variations that also challenged an audience who didn’t understand the context or the characterisations.
At least, Cashell was the only performer to talk to her audience, even if it was prompted by a change in programme sequence.
In the afternoon, Sunwook Kim delivered a spirited Rondo from Haydn and a showy Prelude and Fugue from Shostakovich. He excelled in a percussive finale, that exploded on the keyboard.
Finghin Collins and the Callino Quartet delighted with a very English, Frank Bridge Piano Quintet. This was a big, impressive, decisive sound with old-fashioned string work yet it was stirring and dramatic like a Benjamin Britten war piece. A middle Adagio reminded me of Noel Coward and Ivor Novello with quirky Palm Court passages before a cello deepened the mood and an Allergro Energico was full of flourishes and crashing major chords that would have done justice to Dam Busters.
After the interval Antii Siirala introduced the audience to a female Belsinki composer, Kaija Saariaho, with lots of tonal colour rather than melody and it ended with a virtuoso cascade of sounds up and down the keyboard.
A Sibelius selection was sweet, especially the expressive familiarity of Finlandia Op. 26. Then the Beethoven Waldstein Sonata went from excitingly impressive to utter wow and fireworks. This was as exciting as rock and orchestral and a fantastic end to a glorious weekend.
As a special goodbye, and what a parting gift, three pianists – Finghin Collins, Antti Siirala and Sunwook Kim, premiered a special commissioned Eric Sweeney Ceol Rince, a jig, but what a jig – this four minute piece had the excitement of a Riverdance. In the presence of the composer, it was a parting gift to treasure and look forward to hearing again.