Madalina Rusu Joins Ranks of 'Intrepid' Artists

Phoebe Woollam reviews pianist's performance at Blenheim Concert

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Blenheim Concerts


The next concert in the series will be on Sunday 5th July at 3.30 pm in the Chiswick Catholic Centre. The pupils of the Junior Royal Academy of Music under the direction of Ben Parry will play a programme of chamber music and solo items.

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One reads of pianists who, in the second world war during an air raid, played on as the bombs dropped on London. Madalina Rusu, who played for us on Sunday (May 10th), must now join the ranks of these intrepid artists. She performed gallantly to a background of extraneous noise of monumental proportions.

Throughout the first Impromptu by Schubert there were sounds of an engine revving up in the adjoining kitchen. The noise was finally investigated by a kind gentleman from the Catholic Centre, but unfortunately this involved raising and lowering a metal roller shutter two or three times before the fault could be located. Finally, the same kind gentleman walked down the hall towards the piano (Madalina still going strong) and switched lights on and off for good measure.

Even if Madalina Rusu had been a mediocre pianist, she would have gained significant brownie points just for her powers of concentration. But she was not mediocre; not at all. She was magnificent; a pianist of exceptional talent with a phenomenal technique. She played a long and demanding programme which required great endurance and she achieved a level of artistic excellence not often heard in such a young pianist.

The opening Op: 90 Impromptus of Schubert were played with real sensitivity and Madalina, with a fine cantabile, easily achieved the contrast between a lyrical texture with Schubert’s long melodic lines (heard particularly in No: 3) and the more flamboyant arpeggio and scale-based textures found elsewhere.

Estampes by Debussy was another challenging work but it was managed beautifully with delicate textural playing as well as passages showing her formidable technique.

After the interval we heard the Variations on a theme of Corelli, the first of the two Rachmaninov works. This is a group of twenty variations on Corelli’s sonata for violin, violone and harpsichord. Here the simplicity of the original theme is in stark contrast to the phenomenally difficult variations that follow it. The Etudes Tableaux that came next were no less demanding, two from Op: 33 and three from Op: 39 (the last substantial composition that Rachmaninov wrote before he left Russia). These two works may be regarded as possibly the most challenging in any pianist’s repertoire and this performance was quite outstanding, displaying a profound understanding of the music together with extraordinary dynamic and tonal control.

The afternoon ended with a lovely transcription by Liszt of a waltz from Gounod’s Faust, played enchantingly by this outstanding pianist. Let’s hope we can hear her again soon.

Phoebe Woollam

May 15, 2009