A review.

We tend to ignore the first minute of any phone calls from Maigret Marguerita as she is usually so excited we can´t follow a word she is saying, but after a while the story unfolded. She had seen a poster in Tias about a concert of piano and violin.

We did what we always have to do with MM, and interrogated her with our ´five bums at the bar´ kind of questions to clarify the information.

Who is playing we wondered. ´Not sure, they were funny names. I don´t think they are Spanish.´

So, what sort of music did it say it would be? ´Piano and violin.´

When is it on, then? ´Saturday 15th February.´

I had to explain, then, that it would be impossible for us to get to as we, and she and Iain, already had that date in our diary to see the eagerly anticipated Murray McLachlan and family giving a classical recital at the Camel House in Macher. Still, I soldiered on with my debriefing of MM and asked.

Where is it on at? ´In that building with a name we can´t pronounce and that we´ve never been able to find in Tias.´

Why don´t you let Dee (my wife) try and make some phone enquiries and see what she can find out? ´That´s why I´ve phoned you !´

So I put Dee on the line to see whether she could extrapolate any further minutia that might prove useful.

A couple of hours later she was talking to somebody in a ticket reservation place who seemed delighted to accept a reservation of four free tickets for Concierto Souvenir Romantica on Saturday 15th February at 8.00 pm in Salon Indieras in Tias. This would feature Iya Zhmaeva on violin and Natalijo Nikolayeva at the piano.

It would be tight but do-able as Murray´s recital was scheduled for 4.00 p.m. and likely to finish at circa 6.oo pm leaving us enough time to drive to Tias and see if we could grab a quick meal in The Kitchen, a new-ish English owned restaurant on the main drag, and walk across town to where we would hope to find the venue. (No, of course my wife hadn´t asked for directions on the phone, don´t be so silly!)

The joy of our friendship with Margaret and Iain, though, is that they are as prepared as we are to follow sidetracks and detours all across the arts on a wing and a prayer, eating and drinking on the hoof as we do so, and being grateful for whatever we stumble across. We had all really enjoyed the Murray McLachlan family gala, previously reviewed on these pages, and now Dee and Margaret were tucking into bangers and mash that might not have been tapas but looked terrific and Iain was feasting on a heck of a sized hamburger. I, being somewhat more refined and cosmopolitan was devouring a duck pizza that was far more delicious than it might sound; it all went down nicely with a couple of beers and glasses of wine (between us) in a cosy atmosphere with friendly management and staff. Suddenly though it was ten to eight and we had to dash so we slapped the money on the table, grabbed our coats, shouted cheers and stepped out into the street. (No, of course we didn´t ask the English speaking staff for directions, stop being so silly).

´It´s over there, somewhere,´ pointed out our former Royal Navy Officer friend, as if he had a tall ship and a star to steer her by. Over there seemed to be a long way behind some buildings that there didn´t seem to a way round. The little hand was on eight and the big hand on twelve as we arrived at the building we suddenly all recognised, although we had never known it contained a concert room.

The charming and friendly counter staff pressed our tickets into our hands and showed us into the small auditorium that was about two thirds full, suggesting an audience of about 120 and there were four seats still free in the middle of the front row. They would do nicely.

Iya Zhmaeva (left) & Natalija Niklayeva

The musicians stepped out as we sat down, and for the next hour or so we were taken to another world by two musicians who were enjoying the concert as much as we were in the audience.

Playing the violin, Iya Zhmaeva stood slightly to the fore, dressed in black trousers and top, and at the piano was Natalija Nikolayeva, resplendent in a bottle green evening gown.

Their first offering was from Beethoven’s Sonata for violin and piano Opus 24 and it was immediately apparent in the allegro how much they loved the pieces they were playing. Iya swooping with the violin over  cheerful, even jaunty piano motifs as they echoed each other´s instruments. The adagio molto expressive with its familiar piano motif was full of call and response, and at times the violin was beautifully lonesome even as it shared its stories with the piano. There was perfect synchronisation between the two instruments throughout the Scherzo and in the Rondo. piano and violin frequently exchanged lead instrument roles.

There was a warmth in the playing and in the pervasive atmosphere in the hall that suggested to us that these two musici8nsa were somehow among friends, and the instrumentalists were certainly relaxed enough to show their appreciation of the music, , with Natalija in particular often smiling with delight at the notes on her music sheets.

A Souvenir d´un lieu cher, Opus 24 was delightful, with the violin leading the way in the skippy Melodia. A galloping piano took over in front in the Scherzo before the pace slowed and brought the section to an end with an almost audible sigh.

The Meditacion drew a fuller sound from the violin and showcased some tumbling piano work from Natalia through varied melodies down to the angst of the closing bars.

All this was played out in front of a massive and colourful painting that seemed to be a backdrop of Lanzarote culture, iuncluding camels, sea, sun, sand, mountains and artisans.

Four preludes from Opus 34 by Schostakovich gave us an exquisitely aching violin and deep rumbling piano, before moving to the higher tempo of the allegretto, which included some effective pizzicato, flicked rather than plucked, on the violin before the piano and violin seemed to play almost in combat rather than concord, with violin closing the piece in almost celebratory and victorious style. The Andantino had the violin lead us all in a stately dance, into which stepped a thunderous piano before it all then settled gain into dainty steps.

The closing piece was accredited in a listing I didn´t recognise, as being Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes by M. Weinberg. I had somehow never noted this composer of an output that included twenty two symphonies as well as more than forty film scores. There are fifteen compact discs of his work on the British record label Olympia and on line search engines reveal that his music is thought to have been influenced by Schostakovich and reveals Moldovian and Jewish ethnic influences.

Once again, though, the shock of the new (to me) was wonderful and will cost me a few quid on amazon or i tunes or some such as I try to find some recordings. Tonight a lengthy piano introduction, expertly played, was interrupted by a swift, rhapsodic riff on the violin which, however, soon succumbed to overpowering and recurring piano refrains. The violin recovered, though, with a plucked pizzicato this time, that led to another flight of rhapsody which closed the recital and immediately gave way to loud, prolonged applause and cries of bravo and more from the audience.

The two female musicians seemed almost overwhelmed by this response but recovered well enough to go through a little silent-comedy routine as they searched through scores and music sheets for an appropriate encore.

sheets for the polka

They served us a polka that in its joyful sounds seemed to echo their seemingly giddy delight in how well the concert had been received. We, too, were giddy with delight. Our second concert of the day had been as amazing as had been the first. This afternoon we had witnessed maestros at play at The camel House as Murray Mclachlan and his family gave us piano passages to die for, and tonight we had heard two players in a ´secret´ little hall in Tias share with us their love of the music they were playing.

The musicians in Tias, as well as the staff members and the audience created a wonderful atmosphere and we managed to grab a quick word with the violinist, that led to a lovely little exchange of e mails, that all google-translated into a fascinating interview, reproduced here below.

WHO is Iya Zhmaeva, and how did she come to be in a musical partnership with a lady from Crimea, playing classical music on Lanzarote?

´I’m Russian. I studied in Moscow at the University Of Gnessin, I did the ´superior and then the postgraduate as a solo violinist with the same professor. During my studies I always worked in some orchestra and at the end of my studies I got a contract to play Celtic music in Lanzarote. Since 2003 I am in Lanzarote. ´Five years ago I met Natalija, when she came to my concert and was introduced to me. We are both Russian and we liked the idea of playing together the next time she was on Lanzarote. (She comes every year to Lanzarote. Natalija loves Lanzarote !)´

WHAT do you find so appealing about the combination of violin and piano and what do you and Natalija each bring to your partnership that makes it work so well?

There is plenty of repertoire for violin and piano, from violin works as a soloist with the accompanying piano, to chamber music, as well as sonatas for violin and piano. Since we’re both Russian we love to play Russian music, which around here is actually played very, very little. We both studied using the Russian school method so it is easier for us to understand each other when interpreting the works.´ 

WHEN you play together as you did last night, are you constantly exploring what you can do with the music you are playing, or do you remain faithful to the score.?

´Yes. We are totally faithful to the score as we have a lot of respect for the composer. In classical music, that’s the first thing. Now there may be different versions and editions, but we always try if it is possible to search for the original text.´

WHERE  has your love of music taken you?

´We have now played together a few times and have included Russian composers in concerts in Lanzarote, in Berlin, in Dresden, and in Frankfurt on the Oder. I also played in various places with the Celtic music, including in South Korea. In a ´spiritual sense?´ Music reassures me, yes! Even when I’m nervous before a concert, I take the violin and start to play review the works of the concert and I find myself gradually calming down.´

Natalija speaks with fans
after the recital

WHY, then, were you so obviously delighted to have performed in that hall last night? In what way was a small town theatre so special?

´It was the first time we played in that room and we loved it!  The first thing is the acoustics; the acoustics are very good. The violin sound seemed so soft when we played. It was very nice to play there. It is a very cosy room I find, I hope we do more performances there.´

We here at all across the arts hope that Iya will give us advance notice of any further concerts she and Natalija perform here on Lanzarote. If so, we will be sure to make sure we let all our readers know about these two ladies who take so much joy in each other´s company and so much pleasure in sharing their country´s music with others.

So, after taking months, nay years, to find out about this venue we turned up to see our first gig there and immediately new friends. Iya and I have linked up of facebook to try to ensure we can keep our Sidetracks And Detours readers updated on forthcoming performances. By strange coincidence we will be back at the venue on March 7th to see a musical quartet going by the name of Maximum Ensemble. Tickets are still available from Salon Indieras on Calle La Luchada, (or by phoning 639 993 202) for only 15 euroes, so why not pop in and have a listen too?

Maximum Ensemble appear on 7th March at the same venue

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