Review: Piano duo Silvia Bellani and David Peroni at St James’s Piccadilly

Lunchtime concerts are a bit of a treat. Evening events come with heady expectation. Music at lunchtime is far more relaxed. Discoveries can be made. ‘Payment’ is often (though not always) by retiring collection.

Yesterday’s lunchtime treat was piano duets at St James’s Church Piccadilly given by piano duo Silvia Bellani and David Peroni. Movements from works by Dvorak, Ravel, and shameless crowd-pleaser Kasputin.

There are considerable challenges playing in St James’s. The acoustic is generous – live, sensitive and in some cases quite boomy. That means that musicians need to pay ever closer attention to dynamic contrasts and, if the musical intent will allow, perhaps even exaggerate those contrasts so that the detail in the work is evident to those sat further back in the church. In some works, I wonder whether the generous acoustic is a boon particularly in the music of Ravel and Debussy.

This was certainly the case in the outer movements of the Ravel Rapsodie Espagnole. In the first movement, in particular, both pianists exercised remarkable control making the familiar embedded voices in the score discernible. No mean feat. The Malaguena and Habanera suffered from a comparative lack of clarity. The final movement – Feria – quickly regained the same opening control concluding with a resolute flourish.

The real high-points – the demonstration of both Silvia and David’s innate chemistry – were heard in the selected movements from Antonin Dvorak’s Legends and Moritz Moszkowski’s Two Spanish Dances. In both of these works, delicate legato lines were drawn from the instrument with care.

The Overture from Kapustin’s Op.49 Sinfonietta was a rip-roaring conclusion to a thorough and often beautifully sculpted concert, although the same issues around clarity brought about by the acoustic meant some of the intricacies of the writing were lost. 

The ILAMS series continues on Monday 14 May at 1.10pm with a concert of music for clarinet performed by Hugo Lau accompanied by pianist Imma Setiadi. Lunchtime concerts at St James’s Church Piccadilly are free and staged three times a week. 

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