HEART AND MIND AND FINGERTIPS
by Graham Marshall
Rochdale Music Society
LUKA OKROS pianoforte
Heywood Civic Centre 2020 review
This was the third in what is proving to be a musically most rewarding 40th Anniversary Concert Series promoted by the Rochdale MUSIC Society. The young Georgian pianist, Luka Okros, brought his Eurasian take on the music of four European composers, three of them from eastern European regions, to delight and bewitch the appreciative audience in Heywood Civic Centre. A graduate of the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory and the Royal College of Music in London, he has already become an artist of international acclaim whose technical mastery is put to the service of performances radiating warmth of personality as well as depth of musical understanding.
On this occasion Luka chose to begin his concert with a short, but most attractive Sonata in E minor by the 18th century Austrian composer, Haydn, which he played with precision and poise. This was followed by a telling account of the Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor by Polish composer, Chopin. For this work to have its maximum impact the performer has to succeed in making the first two movements and the last movement build up to and follow on from the third movement, which is a lengthy and intense Funeral March. The connections were made so effectively in this performance that, as the last movement’s terrifying outburst of muffled fury in the face of death and the beckoning grave fell silent, the audience’s loud and long applause was thoroughly justified.
The second half of the concert began with the Six Musical Moments written in some haste by the Russian composer, Rachmaninov, in his early twenties at a time when he was in fairly desperate need of money.
These are often played separately either singly or in varied combinations. So a complete performance of them all at once gives the pianist and listener alike an opportunity to explore their textural, melodic and harmonic riches in one sitting. It is an exploration well worth getting involved in, for it reveals just how spontaneously a musical mind like Rachmaninov’s conceives and gives birth to fully formed and integrated ideas that are immediately appreciated for their artistic genius and technical mastery. From the miasmic and largely subdued wandering up and down the keyboard of the melodic line in the first of these ‘Moments’ to the paean of praise for the resources of the modern piano and its ability to produce sounds of noble exaltation with which the sixth one brings to their thunderous conclusion Luka’s presentation was as near perfect as you could expect, given that the instrument he was not playing was the latest Fazioli or Bosendoefer. Quite astonishing, really!
Equally astonishing was the performance of the Austro-Hungarian composer Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C sharp minor with which Luka chose to end his programme. When a pianist of Luka’s technical accomplishment plays music like this, you can sense that his heart and mind are combining to release through his fingertips the fullest extent of the possible communicative energy being built up throughout the body- how else could such apparently effortless speed and sensitivity be present together? With the audience insisting by their applause that he return to play an encore, Luka enchanted them with a delicious Intermezzo of his own composition, and sent them away thoroughly satisfied by an evening of great musical experiences.
The next RMS Concert will be on March 7th at 7.30pm in Heywood Civic Centre when members of the Pelléas Ensemble (Flute, Viola and Harp) will be playing a varied programme of music from the 18th to the 21st centuries.
Check www.rochdalemusicsociety.org. for details.