A fine solo cello recital at St Andrew’s lunchtime concert

Inbal Megiddo, solo cello recital

Bach: Cello Suite no.2 in D minor, BWV 1008
Pigovat: Nigun
Hans Bottermund and Janos Starker: Paganini Variations

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 4 October 2017, 12.15 pm

A good-sized audience heard a memorable recital of advanced cello music in a varied repertoire.

Inbal Megiddo is an extremely accomplished cellist, who teaches the instrument at the New Zealand School of Music, and plays in the Te Koki Trio.

It was a pity that the programme notes gave no information about the works performed, because her spoken introductions were far too quiet to be heard in much of the church; even after Marjan van Waardenberg gave the musician a microphone, because it was held too far from her face.

The Bach was played absolutely splendidly, with lots of light and shade.  Strong fortissimos, pianissimos that were never weak but intense, subtlety of phrasing and very resonant playing throughout the dynamic range were all superb features.

However, it was a pity not to have the titles of the movements of the Suite printed in the programme; Google had to come to the rescue later; given their very different characters from one another, it was a shame the audience did not have the descriptions.

After the lively opening Prélude came the Allemande or German dance, and then Courante, or running dance, which in this performance was almost an Olympic sprint, but very exciting.  In contrast is the slow dance, the Sarabande, which originated in Spanish America.  Then came two Menuetts; parts of these and the Sarabande were very tender, with ornaments executed exquisitely.  The two differed from each other, and were followed by the Gigue final movement, which was very complex.

It all made up to an accomplished and satisfying whole.

Boris Pigovat is a Russian-born and educated Israeli composer.  Donald Maurice of NZSM has been a champion of his music, and has performed and recorded significant works by this composer.  On consulting Pigovat’s web-site, I found listed three versions of Nigun, for solo viola, solo violin and for string quartet – but not solo cello.  Wkipedia informs me that a “nigun or niggun (pl. niggunim) is a form of Jewish religious song or tune sung by groups. It is vocal music, often with repetitive sounds such as “bim-bim-bam.””

The piece (composed in 1996) opened with strong bass notes.  It incorporated some amazing techniques of fingering – playing the melody and the drone accompaniment at the same time; playing sul ponticello (on the bridge).  The work was demanding technically, with numerous different tonal effects.

The variations by Hans Bottermund and Janos Starker (both cellists) on Paganini’s theme was also an astonishingly complicated piece technically.  It was certainly brilliant, incorporating left-hand pizzicato in the first variation following the theme, then in the next, double-stopping.  The third was almost entirely made up of harmonics, i.e. the strings were not fully pressed down, but the natural harmonics to be found at various points on the strings are made to sound by lightly holding the fingers on them.  Another pizzicato movement followed, to be followed by a very fast variation.  Altogether, the work was a demonstration of a myriad of advanced cello techniques, and ended a recital that revealed what a fine cello and a thoroughly accomplished cellist could do, without any support from other instruments.


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