A partnership going places – Inbal Megiddo and Jian Liu

St. Andrews on the Terrace, Wellington, presents
Piano Plus – A Week of Concerts

Beethoven: Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 4 in C major, Op.102, no.1
Ross Harris: ‘Sunt lacrimae rerum’
Manuel de Falla: Suite Populaire Espagnole, arr. Maurice Marechal
Serge Rachmaninoff: Melody in E from Morceaux de fantaisies, Op.3 No.3
Rossini-Castelnuovo Tedesco, arr. Piatigorsky: Figaro from “The Barber of Seville”

Jian Liu, piano
Inbal Megiddo, cello

Wednesday 13 November

Wellington music lovers are very much the beneficiaries of the recent appointments of artists Inbal Megiddo and Jian Liu to teaching positions at the New Zealand School of Music. Each is an exceptional musician and instrumentalist, and this varied programme offered an opportunity to share their command of a wide range of musical and national styles.

The two movements of Beethoven’s sonata punctuate deeply expressive slow periods with vigorous Allegri interventions. In the poetic Andante and Adagio sections the cello had a wonderfully rich, sweet tone and beautiful phrasing, supported most sympathetically by the piano. The contrasting Allegri  were wonderfully spirited and dramatic, and fully exploited the wide dynamic range of the score. But during impassioned forte periods there were, unfortunately, times when the piano was simply too loud, obscuring the equally important cello role. The use of the long, rather than short stick on the concert grand piano made this an almost predictable hazard, but for most of the time Jian Liu kept the situation firmly under control.

Ross Harris’s brief ‘Sunt lacrimae rerum’ was composed for Inbal and Jian in 2013. Its title derives from Aenaes’ lament on the Trojan War “There are tears in things, and mortality touches the mind”. The outer parts of the score are a moving meditation on the frailty of human existence, with spare, atonal idioms that proved surprisingly effective in expressing this musical stream of consciousness. They encompass a central scherzo-like section of agitated, angry sentiment that was, however, less convincing. But that was certainly not the case in the arresting pianissimo harmonics from the cello that closed this affecting work, beautifully realised by the duo.

Falla’s Suite Populaire Espagnole comprises six movements based on popular songs from all over Spain. They alternate moods of vigorous, spirited excitement, at times almost wild, with sombre meditative tunes like the central Nana lullaby with its Moorish overtones in the cadences. The final Polo is full of the anger and resentment of the scorned lover, and the full range of all these contrasting sentiments was most convincingly explored by the duo.

The tiny Rachmaninoff Morceau  is a beautiful Melody where the cellist gave full voice to her wonderful, rich cantabile and expressive phrasing, and was most sympathetically supported by the piano.

The final arrangement of Rossini’s Figaro aria from “The Barber of Seville” was an unashamed show-off piece for the cellist. While not particularly successful as a piece of music, as an astute act of programming it ended the recital with great enthusiasm and gusto at a breathless gallop, and the audience was rightly thrilled.


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